Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Clear Skies

I'm into my second week of retirement and everything feels the same...but different.  The sameness is that, just as it is every summer, I'm working like a dog to clear the overgrowth of brush, weeds and tree limbs from around the house before fire season is in full force.  Also, I'm trying to get all the deferred garden and home projects done at once (hah!).  And,  just like every summer for the past three years, I'm preparing for Writer's Camp -- an intensive two week program for teaching writing skills to children. (4th to 6th graders).  The part of this program that makes it so much fun is that a group of teachers (6 this year plus me as the facilitator) collaborate and combine talents to teach a small class of students (less than 17).  This year our theme is nonfiction writing using mentor texts and preparing for this has my creative juices flowing.

So everything is pretty much the way it always is in the beginning of June...except that this time around I do not have the start of a new school year looming like a monster on the horizon.  It does speak volumes that for quite some time now every new school year has been felt as a threatening force just waiting to do battle.  It didn't used to be this way -- summer was a simply a time to recharge the batteries, maybe take a class or two, and actually get happy and enthusiastic about the promise of another year in the classroom.  However, now what we have to look forward to is standardized testing and a picking apart of student scores, performance reviews, masses of paperwork, an unending stream of usually nonsensical  after-school meetings, teachers and administrators on ego and power trips, angry parents, and the endless series of hoops teachers are now required to jump through to repeatedly prove that they can do their job.  

If one has a passion for the art, teaching has a way of taking over a person's life.  I accept and even embrace this fact -- I'm proud that I am/was one of those kind of teachers.  However, over the years, all of this mountain of garbage that is force-fed to teachers is what has taken over.  It has nothing to do with teaching or joy or children's well-being and everything to do with power, ignorance and lust for bureaucracy.

So this is why this June, even though everything so far is the same, everything is different.  This year, when August arrives, I'll be free of that particular monster.  I'm already celebrating.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Retirement: Day 1

This is what the first day of retirement looks like at Frogpond Acres.  It's very pretty.  Yet sort of sad.  And sort of... nebulous ("What just happened???").  

Bouquets of flowers light up the house, along with cards, a bottle of champagne, plants, a framed poem (about me!), gift cards, and even tickets to the theatre.

I'm overwhelmed with love and gratitude.  The generosity of my coworkers and administrators has me reeling.  Suddenly I'm wishing like crazy that I'd been better at my job.  That I'd tried harder.  That I'd been more everything for my students. I realize that this is a silly feeling, but there it is.

But that part of my life is over now.  This has been such an interesting school year.  It started in August with the death of my daughter through suicide.  That was also a time of flowers, incredible generosity from friends, family and even strangers.

And then it finished off in June with the end of my teaching in the public school system.  Again accompanied by flowers, gifts and the kindness of friends, family and even strangers...

Even though I'm still at the deer-in-the-headlights stage of all of this, I know that I'm blessed.  I'm so very blessed!