Who hasn’t missed something in the past year? While I am not as isolated as some, my life has been turned upside down and like everyone else I miss the way it used to be. And suddenly I have been retired for ten years after 34 years of teaching, and friends ask me if I miss my career.
The easy answer I usually give is no, I have other things to keep me busy now. But that’s not really true. There are many parts of my career that I do miss.
I miss the sense of identity. As with any job or career, your colleagues and co workers are the people you spend your day with and they share with you common goals and common experiences. I miss common identity. When you spend a school year with the same students and share those students with other teachers you miss the little things… like the eye rolls between each other when that “certain kid” does his thing in your classroom. I miss the feeling of belonging to a group of people who share daily experiences and are working to make learning relevant to every student for every lesson.
I miss answering the question, “What do you do? Where do you work?” It defined me as a person. I remember driving away from school to begin a temporary leave and thinking…. who am I? It hit me hard and put me in tears for a while,missing that feeling of belonging.
I miss many of the physical parts of teaching. Getting ready for a new school year… some new clothes, some new shoes, but mostly preparing my classroom, preparing new lessons or old lessons with a new twist. Looking through the list of students for the year, figuring out how to reach students with varying needs and how to challenge students during the year.
I miss lunch breaks, no matter how short, to let you take a deep breath, share a few minutes with colleagues or maybe just sit alone to regain focus for the rest of the day. Some of the most hilarious and memorable moments in a school year happen in the teacher’s lunch room. I was lucky enough to have a kitchen in my Life Skills classroom equipped with microwave, refrigerator and oven. It became a place for others to store their lunches and share lunchtime together.
One male colleagues always came in with the best leftovers, lovingly made and packed by his wife every day. We all looked forward to seeing what was on his menu One day he came in with some delicious smelling pasta. In the process of reheating and eating with a 20 minute deadline, the pasta ended up on the front of his white shirt. Before I could take another bite of my lunch, he had stripped his shirt off, grabbed some detergent ( I also had a washer and dryer in my room) and started to scrub off the stain. Then he threw it in the dryer and sat back down at the table… shirtless…. to finish his pasta. At that moment, the principal and a visitor to the building walked in.
I miss those few minutes right after school with the teacher next door and the “how did your day go?” conversation.
I miss the creativity I had to muster to create new ways to teach the same old stuff.
I miss the pride in my work and the feeling of satisfaction when things worked out well for a student. I also miss the disappointments shared with colleagues and students. Accomplishments, successes, and even failures make for great relationships… being able to share and work through things.
Do I miss teaching? Yes I do. But I also realize I would not recognize teaching as it is now and especially how it has been during the pandemic. I am in awe of the teachers I read about and talk with who are still in the classroom. They adapted quickly to an almost impossible situation.
I know this month teachers are in the midst of back-to-school planning and are scrambling to get everything done. I wish them all a great school year with many successes and hope they are able to enjoy some great lunches with each other creating great memories.