Thursday, June 23, 2016

Retirement Day 2 - You Can Steer Yourself in Any Direction You Choose!

Siting next to my husband last night as we were driving home from a really great dinner with our friends  (including two cocktails with cute little umbrellas!), I thought, if I write a blog entry every day of my retirement (which is the rest of my life) and I live for 30 years (my expectation!) then I will have written nearly 10,000 blog entries.  Hmmmm...wonder what my entry will be when I am hovering around my 92 birthday??? 

Day 2.  I had a colleague text me last night asking how I was doing on my first day of retirement and it took me a quick second to respond, "I am in heaven."  I literally feel like a huge weight has been lifted right off my shoulders.  There is a lightness in my attitude, my feelings, my step.  Maybe it's me and how I respond to responsibility and work but during summers past  I would think ahead to the next year off and on all summer long.  Which kids will the paraprofessionals work with and how will that go?  Paraprofessional match-up is critical to things running well in a school with so many special education students.  Did their assignments change since we last made assignments in late spring?  Did a para quit and who was the rehire and how would that work?   I would ruminate over how many students would be on my case load and if that had changed and who those kids might be.  Did any new students enroll?  Did that new student have serious behavior (which is always the most rewarding and yet time-sucking student we work with).  I would reflect on the behaviors of kids that past year and on relationships with staff.  I would fret that a particular student really didn't seem to learn much despite intense intervention.  I would think about programs and paperwork and administrative expectations for the year just ended and the year up ahead.  And then as summer closed I would get back into school in the early morning hours of the New England August heat (along with many other staff) and start copying off IEPs (Individualized Educational Plans) for the 16 or so students I case managed and I would try to organize as much as I could before the chaos of school starting in the Fall.  And CHAOS is what it would be.....

As educators we worked 180 days plus or minus which is really only 1/2 the year and yet it is such a challenging job that it feels like 1,000 days a year.  Anybody who argues otherwise, please come and work a spell at my former elementary school.  Work under the weight of evaluations (of you), evaluations of kids, teaching, counseling and resolving conflict (between kids and staff), weekly (if not daily) meetings, planning, coordination, getting along with multiple personalities (adults and kids).....and then tell me how lucky we are to get so many days off :)

A retirement tea was held for retiring school staff in early June this year.  It is held every year and I have rarely gone.  But I was encouraged by several colleagues to go and so I went.  Soon-to-be retirees were asked a series of questions by one of the organizers prior to the event.  There was an optional question at the end about what I imagined for my future.  Optional?  Isn't that the most important question of all at this point?  Now I no longer need to think about how many years I worked in my school district (20), how many different schools I worked at (4) or all the different things I did outside of my basic job responsibilities (behavior newsletter, teaching university and college classes at night, paraprofessional trainings, helping run a gifted program involving high school students, mentoring teachers-in-training, working hard during my 1/2 year sabbatical, teaching yoga for kids classes during and after school), or the significant changes I have seen during my tenure (a complete change in administration;  a move towards data, accountability and PLCs; and teachers working harder than ever before).....these were the key questions asked by the organizers so that they could "read a few lines about your time here" during my two decades in the school system.  

But, for me, the most important question remains:  

The Last Question on the Survey:  Where are you going from here?  (the optional question!)
My Response:  Looking forward to the freedom of having the time to do whatever I want whenever I want :)  As Dr. Suess wrote, "You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose."  (from Oh, the Places You'll Go!)


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