For the past several weeks, well-meaning friends had asked me if it felt weird not getting ready for the school year to begin. Usually around this time, I’m chomping at the bit to get in my room and get it set up for the new year. New bulletin board paper and bordette, a new desk arrangement, spreadsheet after spreadsheet of the kids names for reports – soon to be done; all these thoughts would be circling in my head about now in preparation for the new year. Now this year…..poof…..it’s gone.
So how does it feel? I asked myself the question everyone else has been asking while riding my bike in the dark this morning. How do I feel…..guilty. I feel guilty because now all my friends who I love and care about have to gird their loins in preparation for the mountains of paperwork, reports and stress this new year will bring. I won’t be there to help them and I feel guilty. I won’t be there to tell them it’s going to be all right or to hug them or make them laugh. I won’t be there to tell them how fortunate their students are to have someone who loves them more than a test score.
I won’t be there for the kids who need me. The kid who is different and thinks outside the box. The kid whose parents are divorcing or the kid that needs someone to believe in her. I feel guilty.
I won’t be there for the parent who just wanted someone beside themselves to see the potential in their kid. I won’t be there for the parent who wants someone to understand that they are doing THEIR best to raise this child. I feel guilty.
However I do not regret retiring. I fought the good fight for 18 years and up until these last two years, enjoyed what I did. I enjoyed the laughter, the hugs, the tears and the friendship. I won’t miss the testing, the reports, and the stress, of course, but I will miss feeling like I was making a difference. I know that sounds corny but it’s true. The last two years of my teaching career I didn’t feel like I was the teacher God meant me to be. I felt….like I was the teacher someone else wanted me to be. I tried to work around it but in the end I found it increasingly harder to balance the emotional books. Maybe I was getting too old. Maybe I just couldn’t change to meet the new expectations. Regardless, it was time to go and make room for someone else.
I carried with me no illusions that I was irreplaceable. I knew that when I walked out – someone else would walk in and it would be like I wasn’t there.
I am a lucky man! Over those 18 years I met the most incredible collection of people that you could ever meet. Teachers who gave and gave until they broke down in tears and their health suffered. Students whose ability to rise above society’s degradation and succeed in ways that could not be measured by the Department of Education who were awe inspiring.
So maybe there is no reason at all to feel guilty. Maybe it’s my turn to let the best that humanity has to offer take their red pens and crayons and succeed in ways that are beyond my or your wildest dreams. On September 2nd perhaps I will once again throw my old leg over the seat of bike and along the way instead of feeling guilty…feel gratitude.