A few months ago I was absolutely giddy about the prospects of retirement. And now, retirement is about the farthest thing from my mind. What gives?
First of all, I’m not unhappy about my job. It has, after 25 years finally turned into a daily adventure, where many of the kids just make my day, with their smiles, handshakes and sikes. Others amaze me. Some struggle so much, others are so gifted, and others are so sweet. There are some, but not many, who are hard to manage, are negative and give up easy in the face of challenges but it is my job to do my best to turn that around. So why stay?
Due to my impusive nature and lack of information back in 1987, I withdrew the first six years of my retirement, convinced I would never teach again. I was so miserable those years. I blamed it on teaching. In reality, I was unhappy with my life, my marriage, my lot in life, myself and I had no one else to blame, certainly not myself. The only logical conclusion was teaching was the pits. That was something I could change. I quit.
Eight years of working real jobs, e.g., construction, car sales, insurance sales, satelite dish sales, handyman work, and I was ready for a change. An interest inventory and other surveys indicated the career that allowed me to share my interests and satisfy my values was…get ready…teaching industrial arts. By the time I decided to go back into teaching, I picked up a couple of computer type classes at the local university, which proved invaluable.
But I digress. As a result of withdrawing 6 years worth of retirement funds, I started over in the system in 1997, and with a year of sick leave thrown in, I will have 20 years in by the end of this year. When you look at the numbers, the monthly pension at 20 years is a serious blow to the solar plexus and the wallet. Social Security is severly reduced as well at age 62.
The end result is this. I’d be taking about a $1500-2000 per month cut in my monthly income. I’m not in the position to do without that income at the moment. I’m afraid I’d have to make that up working anyway. So why go look for a job making less money (by the hour) doing something I’m not that excited about, when I can do most of what I want right now and get paid reasonable wages and benefits. I ask you, where else, can I teach kids the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in the last 61 years about life, technology and careers, and get paid to do it, and have my summer off, two weeks at christmas, and benefits as well?
One of the reasons I was excited about retirement was having more time to explore interests. I finally came to the deduction that one never has enough time to learn all they want to learn, and it is a valuable life lesson to learn to prioritize.
As it turns out, I do have a lot of time on my hands to explore. I enjoy gardening and learning more about it. I hope to get a couple of pigs soon, and a bee hive or two. And I learn a lot at school too. The kids teach me things, the janitors teach me things, everyone has something to share, some insight, some technology, some wisdom. I learn something every day.
Sharing tidbits of wisdom with any that will listen is one of my favorite things to do with kids and the staff. Here is an example of a “lesson” I taught with some 7th graders one day. Based on a book I read called “Nonviolent Communication” I was explaing to the kids how to give a compliment. It is a four step process. The formula for giving compliments as well as resolving conflict or sticky situation is only sharing four things.
- My observation
- My feeling
- My needs and wants as they relate to this observation
Just then a fellow teacher name Steven walks in. We often walk into each others rooms to share a word of encouragement or lighten up the atmosphere. I asked him, “Steven, can I use you for an example?” He agreed.
I said “Steven, my observation is this. I come into this school, and I’m only here part time and you always greet me with a big smile. You genuinely seem happy to see me. There are times when I walk into your room and you include me in the lesson. The way that makes me feel is great. You make me feel welcome, like I belong. You often affirm for me that I’m doing s things with the kids that really matter. You are like a cheer leader to me. Thirdly, the reason this is important is that I travel to three different schools, two a day. As a result, I don’t bond with the schools nor do I bond with very many teachers. I’m in and out and on my way. But you make me feel like I belong, which is a pretty big deal. You make me feel like I’m doing a good job, which I don’t get very often. Finally, all I ask is that you continue to support me in my efforts.”
By the end, he had tears in his eyes, and I did too. He came over to me, and gave me a hug. He then explained to the kids, he had no idea that he was having that kind of affect on me. He didn’t know it meant anything. He was just being himself. It was quite a moment for both of us, and one for the kids too.
I’m supposed to teach about careers and technology. In reality, I see my purpose much bigger and broader. My goal is to teach kids about life; how to be happy; how to be successful; the career stuff and technology are just the tools through which I try to explain the life lessons.
On this December 23rd, 2015, I wish everyone that reads this a joyful holiday, and a year that brings insight and gratitude for the challenges and opportunities that life has offered them.