Today we have a special treat. I have just finished my first year of teaching, and one of my dear friends has just finished her last year of teaching. To get a different perspective, I asked her to be a guest blogger and share her thoughts on this monument in her career. Ladies and gentlemen, Diane Holtkiss:
Our school district gives out beautiful rocking chairs engraved with our name to everyone who retires. Every year before now, I would sit in the cafeteria watching retirees get their chairs. They used to look so old. Those people who were nearing retirement would often feel pangs of jealousy.
The first few years I remember beaming with pride as I entered the teaching profession with such enthusiasm and positive energy. I was too blessed to be stressed! It felt as if I were being passed a relay baton and it was my turn to run for educators everywhere. It was my turn to make a real difference in the world. It was my turn to use my gifts to prepare our youth for their futures. I did not envy the retirees then, but appreciated them for all the hard work they had done for our cause. They earned their rocking chairs and their time off to reflect on a life well-lived, giving so much of themselves to so many.
Over time the retirees started getting younger and younger. When one of my dear close friends left us, I was able to see behind the scenes what retirement had to offer. Every time I saw her, she was relaxed and experiencing joy. I was so happy for her and sad for me.
As teaching seemed to change right before my eyes, I started to feel stressed more than I felt blessed. The last couple of years I have started to eyeball those rocking chairs and imagine myself sitting in one. Watching the new teachers replace my outgoing friends over the years has been interesting. Some have been wonderful. Some not so wonderful. And some ran out screaming in the middle of October. But that only happened once.
Seeing them so excited and sure they can save the world reminds me of what I no longer have, passion. At first that was a tiny bit painful. Then I began to realize that it is my job to help them be successful. And that is rewarding for me. What I wish is that any grouchy old teachers who are trapped into teaching long after their expiration dates would keep their mouths shut and stop making predictions of failure for the next generation. It makes them seem so petty. Insecurity and jealousy are not cute. We should have a separate facility for those teachers because they are poisonous to the life cycle of education. If they escape and are caught giving negative energy to a new teacher or student, public beheading should be the punishment. That will keep the rest quiet.
So today I passed the baton on to some wonderful people. It felt amazing to sit in my rocker looking out at the rest of the people. I wondered how many of them are full of life force and how many are running on fumes. I looked around at my fellow retirees and saw my friends who I am sure are much younger than the retirees of years past. 🙂 I am leaving teaching with my heart full and no regrets.