Having just turned the page to a new chapter of my life this past Monday, I can ruminate on new adventures ahead. I handed over the baton to my successor and trust my students will be in good hands. Letting go is probably more difficult than retiring. I no longer conduct the orchestra or drive the bus. Many loved ones have reminded me of this. And it’s fine with me. I think. I hope. I pray. The noise and pace will lessen over time similar to a rallentando. Now I can savor the moments and listen to the concert of life. At the beginning of my career, the pace was allegro. It has changed to an adagio now. I enjoy the leisurely pace as a bystander and no longer the main conductor. Exit center stage.
What surprised me most was that I no longer have lesson plans to write or parents to contact. I will miss the kids and considered them part of the family. So as I enjoy no alarm clocks and sleeping in until I feel like arising, I will plan and plot things I want to do and when I want to. Maybe go back to school. Life-long learners do things like this. It keeps me alert and alive. Even my wrist watch battery died, and I have not felt compelled to replace it. It’s strangely liberating to not know the precise time every two minutes or so. While I own a new cell phone, it is off most of the time. Yes, I know all the jokes that my family makes about Mom and her cell phone. I was told I needed it in case of emergencies. Not true. I suppose?
The past forty-eight years passed both slowly and quickly. I blinked, and it was done and over. Reflecting on how the tools of the trade changed has been interesting to me. We used mimeograph machines to make worksheets for our students and usually got purple hands in the process. Permit me to mention other tools of the trade and in no certain order: typewriters, reel to reel tape recorders, cassette tape recorders, records, record players, radios, televisions, typewriters, 16 mm movie projectors, slide projectors, giant and slow computers, opaque projectors, chalk, markers on new white boards, DVDs, floppy disks, thumb drives, copiers, digital cameras, Smart Boards, overhead projectors, and video conference machines. These were some of the notable changes I experienced during my career. I took it all in stride because it was supposed to help improve the classroom experience. What never changed is the important fact that a real, live teacher is still needed to teach, guide and answer questions. The human element will always be necessary no matter how many new gadgets appear.
This memorable journey began with university teaching which included interesting classes on Navy bases teaching the SEALS and the UDT officers, at NASA Langley Air Force base teaching scientific and technical German to Ph.D. candidates in engineering and was followed by high school teaching and Fulbright Exchange teaching in Germany. No two moments are ever the same in teaching. There were many translation stints mixed with the teaching assignments. One of my favorite highlights of my career was commencing exchanges with schools in Germany. First with pen pal letters and projects and finally, when technology caught up, with video conferences. These are things one can’t teach in a textbook. Connecting classrooms and letting kids find out that their counterparts across the ocean are just the same as they are. They simply live in different countries and speak different languages.
My retirement came fairly quickly with little time for advance planning. That’s ok too. I have no cravings for parties and gifts and such. What I have always treasured and still love are the handwritten cards, letters and poems which students, parents and colleagues have sent from time to time. I need no fanfare for, you see, I know I always did my best. I consider it a job well done. Now time for a pause and rest. Exit the stage. Out of the sun. Thank you to all my cherished friends, colleagues, students and parents. It has been rewarding. I gave you my all. Pianissimo now. Until next time.