Saturday, June 1, 2019

A New Essence

It’s June, which means the end of school and the beckoning hand of Summer. For just about my entire life, this schedule has held true—17 years as a student, 44 years as a teacher. And now that’s about to change.

For this time next year, I will step out of The San Francisco School never to return as a full-time teacher. I may still be involved in after-school projects, sub for my colleagues when they’re off traveling for a few weeks, maybe do a once-a-month preschool sing. But for all effective purposes, I have announced my official retirement in June 2020. 

What will my thoughts be at this time next year? What will I be feeling? What mixture of nostalgia, excitement, sadness, joy will be percolating through my body, heart and mind? 
And why am I doing it?

With all my colleagues at school (including my wife) from the 1970’s and even 1980’s retiring around me, I am indeed the last one standing and the reason for me has been clear: I have continued to love teaching the kids and the generous schedule I have there has allowed me to pursue the other things I care about—traveling and teaching, writing, performing and such. It has been a perfect balance and nothing was broken that needed changing. 

However, I was feeling that the satellite activities mentioned above were growing and it was becoming challenging to balance them with my school commitments. Still, I was waiting for some clear signal and it finally came in the form of a proposed radical schedule change beginning in the Fall of 2020. Something that would change my school life as I’ve known it and may end up just being fine for the teachers and kids, but not without a lot of work to make it work. So bam! there it was, my exit cue. 

I could be grouchy about it, but I think I’m already grateful for a reason to leave and attend more fully to these other projects—including things like more time with the grandkids and maybe even periodic volunteer music classes at their schools in Portland. It will be great to totally decide my own schedule, including room after teaching somewhere to be a bit of a tourist. I’d love to start my own Podcast and I already know what it’s like to stay home and write and play piano and go on a bike ride and I love it. I could be available to mentor fellow local Orff teachers, consult with the SF Public Schools about a growing interest in restoring the arts, do a better job with my Pentatonic Press projects and try to get a few more gigs for my Pentatonics band. No lack of things to do!

Retirement will not mean the end of my teaching, just the end of my official teaching at The SF School. I suspect I’ll be teaching as much as ever if not more so and that’s something I don’t feel the need to retire from. Knowing how World tends to work, I suspect that the closing of the school door will open new doors that never would have opened without that closing.

So on this first day of June, I opened a book randomly to a poem and found one by the Czech poet  Czeslaw Milosz(ironically called Winter just as I turn to Summer) with these intriguing closing lines:

And now I am ready to keep running
When the sun rises beyond the borderland of death
I already see mountain ridges in the heavenly forest
Where, beyond every essence, a new essence waits.

You, music of my late years, I am called
by a sound and a color which are more and more perfect.

Do not die out, fire. Enter my dreams, love.
Be young forever, seasons of the earth.

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