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.
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 Applications 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.
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.