I’ve been a failure at retirement. Just when I figure I’m comfortably retired, I get un-retired and go back to work full time for several months. Now I’m about to re-retire once again.
When I first retired, some years back, I returned to teach two sections of English at the same school for 36% of my salary. I remember telling the principal that if they defined three sections as 49% of a work assignment, I’d work that schedule.
A year later, that’s what I did. It was great, working every other day with either Friday or Monday off every week. That arrangement lasted about three years.
Then my principal retired and I started working long-term substitute assignments, mostly for maternity leaves.
Finally I’m nearing the end of what may be my last such assignment. I’ve been substituting a second time for a young mother. It’s been good, but I’ve got only one week left and emotionally I’m ready to go.
It’s been quite an experience at a school that’s significantly different. It’s closer to home; I’ve saved myself 10 hours of commuting time per week. I see my students in the mornings waiting for the bus.
These days my pay goes for home improvements and travel. I’ve joked that I can’t be fired because I can get to my car and drive away before anybody could do the paperwork.
I’m not disgruntled, but not being dependent on the income gives me a sense of freedom. I complained to an administrator about the 40 students in a supposedly advanced class. When she started in that we have a large student population, I interrupted with “that’s no excuse.”
That really upset her. I didn’t escalate the situation, but neither did I back down. I apologized for cutting her off, but for nothing else. As far as I was concerned, she could accept the apology or hire somebody else.
She accepted it, but did nothing about the overcrowding. So it goes.
Several of my students show the damage wrought by poverty and family dysfunction, but most are doing well. Some are flourishing.
At a table near my desk sit a boy and a girl, two of my favorite students. The girl has been speaking English for only five years. She is a diligent worker, an accomplished reader, and she speaks with an American accent.
I know the boy’s mother. She is a neighbor, a teacher at my wife’s school. She is an immigrant from Mexico.
Sometimes I overhear their conversations. They are two nice, smart, normal young people whose everyday interactions can warm your heart. I’ll miss these kids.
After teaching poetry by Robert Frost and Dorothy Parker and Margaret Atwood, I supplemented the lesson by sharing a sonnet I wrote after my father’s death. One lovely freshman girl kept asking me about my book of poems, and how she could buy one.
After her repeated requests, I gave her a copy and a price. I didn’t really want the money, but I can’t just give books away or others will ask for them. I may have the world’s largest collection of my poetry books in a closet, but I still try to sell a few from time to time.
One of my classes is lovable, another tests my endurance, and the rest are normal collections of young people who deserve everything a teacher has to give.
I’ve been giving since 1976. It’s been a pleasure, mostly. I’m hoping to write a new chapter in my life. I look forward to re-retirement one more time.
Maybe this time I will succeed.