When I was in high school, I thought I’d graduate and never see the inside of another school in my life. I would have dropped out if my parents would have let me. That wasn’t because I hated school so much as I was fearful for my life every day we went to school in a Chicago suburb during the civil riots of the late 60s and early 70s.
Bomb threats were commonplace. Gangs coming down out of Chicago to disrupt our peaceful and privileged suburban life became a reality. Our little Normal Rockwell corner drugstore, go to church on Sunday communities became targets of rage and an outpouring of meanness.
We had armed security guards outside and inside the buildings and some had German Shepherds at their side. We had to show IDs to get on the bus, to get in the school and any time we were caught out in the hallway between classes. I was caught several times at school during violent riots. I saw a girlfriend whacked up the side of her head with a chain while she sat minding her own business at the lunch table. I saw a boy get stabbed while trying to get on our bus. It was a crazy time in our nation’s history.
I just wanted out of it, away from it. It’s a miracle any of us learned anything under those conditions.
After I went to work full time at a big newspaper a couple of towns away, it didn’t take me long to realize I needed and wanted college in my life if I was ever going to fulfill any of my dreams. So, I went to Cumberland College (now University of the Cumberlands) a year later and have pretty much been a student or a teacher ever since!
When school opened last year, I was pretty devastated that I wasn’t going back. My plan was to teach another three years before I even seriously thought about retirement. If I was no longer a full time teacher, then what was I to be? Thank God for the after school tutoring program at Holy Trinity that allowed me the privilege of staying connected to students and the educational environment on a smaller scale.
I’ve had a year to come to terms with being retired from full time public education. It took a while to realize that I was free to travel during the middle of the week, or even run an errand in the middle of the day. I’ve slowed down my mad dash to work full time and get everything else done on top of it.
As I hear my friends and former colleagues agonizing over the end of summer and the realization that school is back in session, I still miss it, but I am happy to say that I am not grieving about it this fall. Their summer has ended according to the school calendar. Mine won’t end until the real world calendar says it’s over around Sept. 21.
I may not have wanted to retire when it became necessary, but I am realizing more and more that I have been given the gift of time to spend with my parents, to rest, to read and write, to explore, to visit with grandbabies and to travel. What a wonderful realization for me!
Still, I think of all the teachers facing the challenges of another school year, the students that will fill the classroom and the exciting seasons of the year and I miss it. I can’t think of a better job anywhere for me than having been a teacher. To all of our teachers, students, administrators and school support staff, I pray that this is a safe, rewarding, successful and happy year of learning for all.