I retired last month after serving 36 years in public education in New York State. I think I surprised my friends, relatives and colleagues.
I made up my mind about five months before I actually retired, and once word leaked out, I was constantly asked – usually several times a day by well-meaning colleagues – “are you counting down the days?”
I wasn’t until it got close to the end (about two weeks), and at a small party I finally said to the gathering “No, I’m not!” as I held up my two hands. One had a 1 written on it and the other that had a 5. The other comments ran the gamut from “I can’t believe you’re retiring” to “I wish I was in your shoes,” and “Take me with you!”
I have a soft spot in my heart for my colleagues. I don’t think it has ever been more challenging working in public education, but I had to ask myself why, if I really wanted to take you with me, I didn’t just stay?
The other question I was asked over and over was, “What do you plan to do once you retire?” I said to myself, I am relatively young, in good health, I have all of my teeth, most of my hair and the only reason I pay attention to those ED commercials is to see if they are still featuring two bathtubs. (I then wonder, if it is such a good drug, why are there two bathtubs?)
The answer to what I will do once I retire is that I have several ideas. I intend to spend more time with my family, I may work part-time, I want to volunteer a great deal, and I have several projects around the house that have been waiting for my attention.
I am playing more golf – my game could really use it – but the pro I’ve been working with keeps asking, “When are you going back to work?”
Working with young people is very rewarding, but it can also be very challenging. I taught with a colleague several years ago – near the end of his career – who had a formula for when it was time to retire. He said take your age and add it to double the number of years you’ve been teaching. When the number reaches 100, it’s time do a Ray Charles and “Hit the road, Jack.”
My career was evenly split exactly half in teaching and half in administration. It encompassed city, rural and suburban school districts.
Several years ago a professor said to me, “You know, with your experience working in different school districts you should write a book.” Well, you know the expression “the names have been changed to protect the innocent?” I didn’t because I realized I couldn’t possibly come up with that many names, and they’re not that innocent.
Early in my career I attended a reception for a teacher who had retired and continued to work as a substitute teacher. This was a very formal affair with a silver punch bowl and tea set. I remember saying, “Boy, when I retire and they have a tea party for me, that’s it, I’m done.” The next day the lady who organized the affair put a tea bag in my mailbox with the note, “See ya!”
So far I’m keeping busy. I tell friends I don’t know when I had the time to work. I’m not bored, but it’s only been 15 days. Wait a minute – where’s the marker? I need to write that on my hands.