MidLife

Counting Down the Lasts

Last Friday I spent two hours interviewing my potential replacement.

It’s uncommon for a teacher to have input in the hiring of faculty. I am fortunate to work for an administration who values his staff’s opinion… even if the experience demonstrated I am, indeed, dispensable.

This interview sealed my fate. I will no longer be Mrs. Totoro, English teacher. As excited as I am for this new “retirement” chapter in life, it is difficult to say good-bye to the identity I’ve known for the past fifteen years.

A Look-Back

I’ve worked at the same small private school since 2004. I was originally hired to teach two elementary grammar classes, which met on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Three months later, I added the Computer ApplicationsΒ to my resume. I inherited a class with no textbook and a skeletal syllabus. I managed to stay one day ahead of the students as I created my own curriculum.

The following year I added British Literature and Junior High English to my list of courses. Both classes were new for the school. Both classes allowed me to select my own textbooks and create my own agenda. I was petrified, yet I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.

The next year I added 9th grade English to the roster. While I inherited a textbook and syllabus, I quickly revised several lessons to make them my own. The following year we divided the one Junior High English class into a 7th-grade and an 8th-grade class. I designed the curriculum and taught both in addition to my previous course load.

Over the next several years I relinquished the elementary classes in favor of taking on more high school responsibilities. I became an adjunct professor of a local private university (my pipe dream come true) when I added the dual credit English Composition class. I also whetted my own appetite by agreeing to teach “How to Write a Novel in Year” to a select group of talented writers.

The year I became the Yearbook Advisor was the same year I relinquished seventh-grade English. I realized my passion lies with older students. And I quickly realized… my passion does not lie with yearbook. That was a two-year commitment only.

Over the next couple of years, I slowly winnowed my teaching down to my two favorite classes: British Literature and English Comp. And I shared my love of international travel with students by leading two group tours to London, Paris, and Rome.

I first retired in 2014, but as I’ve mentioned before, that was short-lived. I was back in the classroom by 2016 teaching English Comp and novel writing classes.

The Countdown

All this is to say… teaching was not just a career for me. Teaching was my life.

And on Friday I realized that life will soon end.

I looked at the calendar this weekend and realized two months is all I have left. On May 9th I will teach my final class, and I will attend my final graduation ceremony on the 17th. I am counting down the lasts:

  • This is my last Spring break.
  • I’ve attended my last teacher in-service.
  • Parent/teacher conferences are no longer an annual event.
  • I will no longer be known as Mrs. T.
  • My academic input is no longer needed… except to hire my replacement

For the most part, I am excited by my new prospects. I will have more time to spend with grandchildren and pursue personal interests. And I will NOT have to grade papers!

But I’ve come to realize that retirement is also saying good-bye to a life I’ve loved. I will miss the school, my colleagues, and the students. While I trust my future holds a different kind of teaching, today the joy of retirement is tinged with sadness.

34 Comments

  • Donna

    Hi, Molly – This post strongly resonated with me. Before I retired, I could not imagine not being fully immersed in school. I had been there, on one side of the desk or the other, for most of my life. I completely understand, and respect, your tinge of sadness. Wishing you a wonderful next chapter ahead. I look forward to reading more about it!

    • Molly Totoro

      Thank you so much, Donna! I know retirement will be grand – and I will look back fondly on my years in the classroom.

  • Michele

    it sounds like you are doing as well as you can adjusting to your soon to be new status. When I left the classroom I struggled, and still do, with my identity. I was a teacher for many years and suddenly I wasn’t. A year later I took an adjunct position so I back to teaching, but not full time and I don’t feel completely connected to teaching again. You will find many new things to do, but I suspect a little of you will be left behind in the classroom and with the students.

    • Molly Totoro

      Interestingly Michele… these past two years I’ve been “adjunct” and do not feel as connected as when I was entrenched with the students full-time. Perhaps it was the perfect transition to retirement.

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Hi Molly what a wonderful career you have had and teaching certainly was a vocation for you. Without sounding negative, I know from previous experience that you will feel a great loss when you retire from teaching. Having been through a similar situation when I retired from full time work, I know I didn’t handle it as well as I would have liked. If I could do it again, I would ease into my new life, accept that some days will be difficult because of the empty space in your schedule but know that you will develop in other ways and have a new fulfilled life. You will be having a major life change but if prepared, it doesn’t have to be as devastating as it could be. You are retiring from teaching but definitely not retiring from life. Congratulations and here’s to an exciting new chapter in your life. Thank you for sharing with us at #MLSTL and sending you best wishes. xx

    • Molly Totoro

      Thank you so much for these encouraging words, Sue. The first time I retired, I was not expecting to feel such a loss of purpose. I’m hoping I’ve better prepared for that this go around. But you are right… just because I’ve done this before does not mean I won’t have sad days. It’s better to expect them and be willing to give myself grace (something I often struggle to do).

  • Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au

    It’s so hard to leave when a job is exactly right for you and you’ve invested so much of yourself into it Molly. You can be proud of all that you’ve achieved and it’s lovely that administration recognized that. Retirement sounds like a perfect time to rediscover more of what you love (without fitting it in around your job). As you know, I’m trying to figure things out re: leaving work too, whether it’s retirement or reinvention – time will tell!
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM πŸ™‚

    • Molly Totoro

      Retirement or reinvention … I love this, Leanne! I’d like to think it isn’t an either/or proposition, but both can be pursued with gusto πŸ™‚

  • Denyse Whelan

    Ah Molly, I so get this, I really do.

    As a life-long teacher/principal/uni tutor I retired 3 times!

    I think education always stays within us and I know even years after finishing my role in schools, I still think of 9 am as school start and 3 pm as school ends.

    You will I am sure continue to be an educator in retirement. To help others is part of what is in our DNA I reckon.

    Best wishes

    Denyse #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      Denyse … I’m surprised (or maybe I shouldn’t be) how many former educators are now blogging!
      I completely agree that I have a built-in clock. I typically start my day around 9:00 and by 4:00, I am ready to call it quits. I’m trying to convince myself that I still have productive hours after dinner (especially now that I don’t have to grade) πŸ™‚

      And I also think I will continue teaching – just in a different capacity and a different audience. I think I’d like to investigate the possibility of online classes (?)

  • Debbie

    Oh Molly I know some of what you’re feeling and it’s hard seeing those ‘lasts’ pop up. Education is something you never really leave so I wish you well for the final few months. I’m glad you’re going on your own terms. Take care πŸ™‚ #mlstl

    • Molly Totoro

      I do consider myself a life-long learner, Debbie. And anytime I learn something new, I want to share that knowledge with others. I think that is why I love teaching. I hope to find ways to pursue both in retirement – only without grading papers πŸ™‚

  • Candi Randolph

    Congratulations on such a successful career! I understand the sadness at leaving what you know and love, but what an opportunity for new adventure going forward. You’re going to have fun! #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      Yes… I am excited to have entire days to devote to reading, writing, and scrapbooking. I know I won’t be bored in retirement, and for that, I am grateful.

  • Cheryl

    There can be happy lasts and sad lasts in life. It seems like you’ve got an enormous amount of satisfaction from you career and you have a lot to be proud of. I almost wish I could have been one of your students – teachers like you are pretty thin on the ground. Enjoy your lasts – relish them even. Savour every last second of every one of your lasts relating to your teaching career, and then move on to the next chapter of your life with joy and new energy. You’ll always have your memories, and the good thing is that you’ve given a lot to a lot of people during those 15 years. All the best! Visiting from MLSTL and pinned. πŸ™‚

    • Molly Totoro

      Thank you, Cheryl, for these kind, encouraging words! I am a journaler and I’m trying to savor the lasts in my writing. It helps me to fully appreciate them now – and then later I can look back on them fondly.

  • Pat

    Molly, Do not deny those bittersweet feelings. Many of us felt them and many of us struggled with the losses. There might even be stages of grief (you might want to relook at those and prepare yourself if you know how you manage grief). I had only 3 months from deciding to retire to being out and there were many moments in there where I began second guessing it. But from the other side now, I am super glad I retired when I did!

    • Molly Totoro

      WOW! Three months is not a long time to adjust to major lifestyle change, Pat!
      In some respects, I feel like I’ve had four years to adapt to this change. But I also know that emotions do not always go according to plan. I am trying not to have unreal expectations … and your advice to prepare for some aspect of grief is a good one.

  • Jan Wild

    Speaking from the other side of rewirement I can assure you that you have a grand adventure ahead of you and will soon wonder how you had time to teach πŸ˜‰

  • Christie Hawkes

    Good luck Molly with your next life adventure. The fact that you are listing out your “lasts,” tells me I don’t have to remind you to savor every moment. I think it’s safe to say that you have made a difference for many children along the way, and so Mrs. T lives on in them. #MLSTL

    • Molly Totoro

      Oh Christie, thank you so much for those kind, encouraging words. I do think Mrs. T lives in the heart of a few of them. I am “friends” with some on social media and enjoy watching them grow and mature over the years.

  • Janet Mary Cobb

    Molly,
    I so relate to this post — having spent many years in the classroom and having responsibilities shift and pile on! While I’m not retired — I’m no longer in the academic world and totally understand the idea that ‘teaching is my life’ and ‘who I am’. When ‘teacher’ is the default personality and the way we move in the world, finding how to make that happen outside of a formal classroom can be challenging. I’m sure you’ll find your way! Enjoy the journey.

    • Molly Totoro

      So much truth here, Janet! But I also know that God has a plan for life after teaching. In fact, I think He has a plan for teaching… just not in the traditional high school classroom. I am excited about the future, although just a bit sad to release a meaningful past.

  • Jennifer

    Oh, I remember going through these lasts, not as a teacher though. When my previous company closed our call center two years ago, they announced it six months ahead of time. I’d spent 25 years there and had developed great working relationships. For me, it wasn’t the job so much that was hard to say goodbye to, but the people that I was working with. I tried the early retirement route, but two years later, I’ve found another job because I realized that I liked being able to interact with people on a daily basis.

    • Molly Totoro

      Truth be told, Jennifer… I could easily be a hermit. I’m not sure I will miss the daily interaction with people. BUT… I also know that life is about relationships. I will need to be purposeful in how I spend my time. I want to be sure to include regular contact with good friends. And if I discover I am missing out on social interaction, I think I might volunteer at the library or a local animal shelter πŸ™‚

    • Molly Totoro

      Hi Tamara! YES… I do plan to do the A-Z Challenge again this year. My theme post will go live next week. I look forward to this blogging even each year πŸ™‚

  • Bryan G. Robinson

    I’m just catching up here, but I’ve had this bookmarked because I’ve wanted to comment. I knew you were a teacher and that you had semi-retired, but now after reading this post, I begin to understand (a little) of just what all you have done with teaching. I am amazed and only can imagine how sad and excited you must be. I, for one, have enjoyed your writing here and hope to continue to enjoy it for many years to come.

    • Molly Totoro

      Bryan… I’m SO glad you found my new blogging space! I am very hopeful to return to regular Sunday Salon posts in the near future… and to keep in touch with my online book blogging friends for the next several years πŸ™‚

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