I was privileged to teach for 34 years, in grades three through six, including serving for ten of those years as a reading specialist/literacy coach. My career consumed me, it delighted me, it frustrated me, and it fulfilled me.
I have always felt called to teach, even fifteen years in when I was experiencing a bad case of burnout. At that time, as an almost vocal answer to my prayers for what to do next, I could hear God saying, “I have called you to teach, and until I call you for something else, just carry on.” And so I did.
I still have a lot of teaching stories inside me, and they will still be told, but this year it was time to retire, and I repeatedly saw signs along the way. Most prevalently, the sign that spoke loudest to me was about assessment and data. I believe – I always will – that teaching is about individual relationships and personal growth. Education is about knowing students and becoming a part of each other’s lives. It is about working and celebrating together.
Teaching should not be about numbers. It is not about impersonal computer assessments, scores derived from one measure that determine futures, numbers that can be skewed to reinforce what someone is looking for, or decisions based on trends and predictability formulas. Obviously my beliefs and today’s educational practices are in conflict.
A friend assured me I would go through a grieving process, and I may, especially when school begins in the fall. After all, I have been in school, as a student or a teacher, for all but one of the last fifty-four years. But as for grieving, I believe most of that process has already taken place for me. I have been saddened by what I see as backwards steps in reading instruction in our district. I have been appalled at the political maneuvers used by education’s leadership at local, state and national levels. I have been discouraged by the lack of trust and belief in teachers. I have been hurt by acquaintances who have devalued and disrespected my colleagues and myself. And quite honestly, I am tired of the negativity this has brought to my life.
So I am truly energized about my retirement and the days ahead. There are opportunities to breathe deeply, to embrace new ideas, and to foster relationships with others. I can reconnect with neglected family and friends. I can be a better wife and mother, a better homemaker, a more engaging conversationalist. And there is time to listen more carefully to see what God is now calling me to do. there is anticipation – not anxiousness but enthusiasm – to see where this all leads.
My daughter went with me to purchase a hanging basket for our back yard the other day. I have waited almost too late in the season to have many choices among the remaining offerings at local nurseries. I knew I wanted a geranium, but there were very few healthy looking ones from which to pick. Thankfully, here’s what I ended up with:
My daughter asked me if it bothered me that there was only one bloom. “Not at all,” I replied truthfully. “Look closely. There are buds all over this plant. The blooms will come.”
And that is how I view my retirement. There was a time when I thought I could never retire from the professional love of my life without knowing what I would be doing next. “I have to have it all lined up before I can quit,” I told myself. But as it turns out, that is not the case. The feeling of freedom in this is incredible! Right now, I am very confident this was the right decision, extremely thankful for this opportunity, delighted in knowing it is absolutely the right thing.
No, I am not sure what my next professional steps will be. Yet I can assure you, there is a blessed peace in knowing that one day, when the time is right, the blooms will come.