As the old cowboy song croons, “I’m back in the saddle again, back where a friend is a friend…”
Teaching five days in a row (gasp!) at my school while my colleague Sofia is in Salzburg. The night before I began, I had a strong dream that I was wandering in the world, so happy and footloose and fancy free and suddenly realized, that if I retired, this could be my life. I’ve been waiting for some kind of signal from the other world or the inner world as to when my moment to decide will come and I thought, ”Hmm. Maybe this is it.”
But then I’ve taught these two days at school and it as every bit as delightful as anything else I’ve been doing with my time. Back up on the horse and trotting along merrily and it’s just fine, even more than fine. It’s fine. A string of delightful 1st grade classes, an experimental math-music class with 7th grade, starting up with Halloween songs at Singing Time. Tomorrow more 7th and then 6th and 4 year olds and 3rd grade.
I notice my patience for kids’ random tomfoolery is thin, but not in an angry way. I just look them in the eye and call them back to task one milli-second after they transgress and let them know “Uh-uh. Life is too short for you to waste your time and mine. Get to work, buddy.“ And because I’m absolutely confident that the work I’m offering is worthy and fun and challenging, there’s not much room for negotiation. And when they see that their escape route is firmly closed and actually apply themselves and make some notable progress, why, then I praise them accordingly and everyone’s just a little bit happier.
My only complaint about being back at school is that they changed from eating lunch in the kitchen with the sociable cooks bustling around and the warmth of the oven and the bubbling tea water on the stove and everyone huddled around the central counter to food being brought into the library with a covered tablecloth. The change from being in the kitchen in the midst of the delightful activity to the food being brought down to the staff is the difference between the family feeling of eating at home and going out to a restaurant, with the cooks all hidden. I even miss my ritual “Thank you, Jane, Thank you, Patty” as I left the kitchen to go to Singing Time. (And the change is precisely because Jane and Patty retired and the new cook prefers more solitude and elbow room). Well, I’m not going to leave the school in protest, but it’s those little touches that can slowly erode the character of a school like ours. In spite of that little concern, as I said, it feels happy still to be there.
So the retirement question mark lingers and I imagine it’s not that interesting to anyone else and even I get tired of feeling like I have to ask it. Maybe I should just pretend it’s my first year and take it a day at a time. And from where I sit, looks like I’ll go back tomorrow.