A Different Kind of Wonderful
"So, how do you like retirement?" In the two years since I've been retired from the high school English classroom, I always replied, quickly and forcefully, "Great!" "Wonderful!" "The Best!" For the most part, these answers are true. However, to really explain what retirement has meant to me, one or two word answers won't do. There are many positives, but there are some negatives, too. I retired in June, 1994, and was fortunate enough, in health and money, to plan a trip for that September. I savored the delicious thought that when my teacher buddies were facing the toughest part of the year (establishing class rules and order -- I usually didn't smile much until October), I would be driving to Canada with my husband, on the way to Minnesota to spend a month with our two daughters and their families. This time I smiled all through September. I've been planning trips ever since.
That brings me to my own little recommended system of "handling" retirement in a positive way. Most potential retirees should plan on some Stimulation-Factors (S-Fs) before D-Day. My friend and co-worker, who retired at the same time I did, has not enjoyed these two years as much as I; I don't think she had enough S-Fs planned for that time. However, most teacher retirees I know had so much on the plate, as it were, during the teaching years that they couldn't wait to do all of them at leisure. These make the happiest retirees. I started part-time travel-agent work while I was still teaching, and, although I don't make much money as an "out-side" agent, the work is interesting and I enjoy "going to the office." I'm also fortunate to have a daughter working (in Houston) for British Airways, but many retirees without perks like these flood Elder Hostels all over the world.
Another S-F for my husband and me is our love of car travel. We drive to Arizona every winter (goodbye, snow!) and rent a small apart-ment for two months. Tucson is so different from our near-the-beach community on Long Island: mountains, desert, sunsets, and cacti are a combination that has turned us into hikers -- in a small way. While there, it's easy to fly up to San Francisco to see our son, two more daughters and their families (and much cheaper than flying from New York). My own personal S-F is my position on the Executive Board of WILLA, something I hope I can continue for many years. Ever since I joined what was then the Women's Committee of NCTE in 1984, I have been thrilled to be a part of a most exciting and interesting group of committed women, who are devoted to enhancing, promoting, and publicizing the role of women in the profession of teaching English and Language Arts. (And they're fun people, too!) At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that there are many positives, but there are some negatives, too. I'd like to list these in a category I'll call "No Mores."
No Mores (Thankfully)
No Mores (Regrettably):
- Seniors who start working in April trying desperately to make up enough work to gradu-ate.
- The whole term paper process: preparing the students for writing them; guiding the students in writing them; giving them back (the worst part of the process, mostly because they expect a grade commensurate with the time put in, and often it doesn't work that way.)
- Meetings: faculty, department, guidance/parent, parent/student, scheduling, pre-observation, post-observation, visit-by-an-expert, all-day superintendent days. I don't miss a one.
- Recalcitrant students; Obstreperous students; Non-working students; Complaints from group workers who are pulling more weight yet getting the same grade as others in the group.
- Hall Duty
- Close, daily relationships with wonderful teachers and staff-discussions, mentoring, brief bantering, jokes, laughs, guffaws, serious mutual counseling sessions, social events-all deeply missed.
- Respectful, hard-working, delightful students who made many a day end with enormous satisfac-tion.
- Student-teacher interaction based on mutual respect; where else can you get that wonderful feeling of being admired for doing what you loved doing-teaching? The students' attitude said it all, and that can't be replaced in retirement.
There you have it: retirement is great, wonder-ful, the best! But there were many parts of teaching that were great, wonderful, the best! It all depends on whether or not you're ready for a different kind of wonderful.
Pat Bloodgood taught English for 25 years, most of them in Bellmore-Merrick, Long Island. She is the membership officer of WILLA, and most years she can be found talking with new members at the WILLA Exhibit Table at the NCTE Convention. Look for her there in Chicago this November.
Copyright 1996, The Women in Literature and Life Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English (ISSN #1065-9080). Permission is given to copy any article provided credit is given and the copies are not intended for resale.
Reference Citation: Bloodgood, Pat. (1996). "A Different Kind of Wonderful ". WILLA, Volume V, p. 10-11.