Today, we had planning time with colleagues in lieu of our regular faculty meeting. Notebook in hand, I ran up the stairs at 7:45 to meet with the other two Reading specialists. We have worked as a team for ten years. JoAnn and Kelly are two of the most committed, caring individuals I know and it has truly been a privilege to work beside them, learn from them, share the ups and downs of life, and form friendships that will last a lifetime.
This morning, however, our meeting began with a totally different topic. The first question we discussed…”What do you want to do for your retirement, Rita?” Yikes! This is the real deal. Back in January I announced that I would retire this June. Since my original plan was to retire next year, not this, I could hardly believe it myself. What a bittersweet experience this is going to be. On the one hand, I crave more space in my cramped life. No longer will I have to hustle to fit in visits with my grandkids and outings with friends and household chores and writing and a million other things into the weekends. No longer will I collapse into bed each night with most of the tasks on my to-do list undone. No longer will the evenings find my husband left alone with the TV and me zonked out on the chair five minutes into the show we were going to watch together. Yes, retirement will have its perks.
On the other hand, I realize I will be walking away from the rewarding, challenging, sacred profession that is at the core of who I am. I am determined that although I’m not “teaching” full-time, I will remain a teacher in some capacity. I’ve convinced myself that there are many ways to keep my hands in this without the commitment of a full-time job. I remind myself constantly that writing is a form of teaching and I’ll have the time and energy to pursue my writing in a way I cannot do while working. Examining the upside of this decision, is the only way I’ll be able to move forward with grace and confidence.
My days are numbered and I must savor the gift of each one. Wherever you are on the spectrum between beginning teacher and retirement, I encourage you to do the same. Life speeds by and teaching is so consuming that it is easy to take things for granted. Endorse the work that you do, enjoy your students, and energize yourself frequently so that when your time comes, you can look back with joy at a satisfying career.