June was a flurry of retirement celebrations. The district’s annual retirement party was held on the rooftop patio of the Community Foundation in Aptos. It was a chilly foggy evening (of course it was, it’s Aptos!) and many of retired teachers came to celebrate with us. I felt like I was being handed off from one community to another and the retired teachers were there to welcome me with open arms.
Later in the week our school held their end of year party in a small coffee shop. There were balloons, banners, silly games, beautiful gifts and more former coworkers I hadn’t seen in a while. I felt cared for and respected. I am pleased to have shared my career with these professionals.
The last day of school came with it’s fifth grade promotion ceremony. I was delighted to see that many of the high achieving fifth graders being honored were once in my remedial groups. They’d once been seriously behind, and now they not only keep pace with their peers, in some cases they exceed them! Knowing that I had a small part in that progress makes me proud.
When the school bell rang I walked out to the front of the school to say good bye to the children and their families. Hugs, handshakes, congratulations, and more puzzled queries from confused first graders, “So are you’re going to work at another school? Why won’t you stay here with us?” Then they scrambled into their family cars, dragging overstuffed backpacks into the first moments of their summer vacation.
Some of my former students had returned to say see their younger siblings promote. They called my name across the grass and through the crowd of balloons and cupcakes I’d see some tall lanky teenager with a face that held just a whisper of the child who had been. Amidst the cheerful melee we’d catch up. “What grade are you in? What’s your favorite subject? What will you do this summer?” I was so happy to hear what they were doing now, I often forgot to tell them my big news, “You won’t see me here next year; I’m retiring.”
As the last child left, the campus fell quiet. I returned to my room to face thirty years of files, curriculum, office supplies, posters, globes, and books. I resumed sorting out school property from personal property, the useful from the outdated. Like so many teachers I can be a hoarder, sure that one day I’ll use this again. And now, as I prepare to teach other teachers, I am rewarded. Yes! I can use these as examples in my workshops! I knew I was saving this for something! And so the pile of materials I am bringing home grows.
The following morning. The last box was finally packed. My car was stuffed to the ceiling with boxes of stuff for my future workshops. My last reports had been submitted. And I turned in my school keys for the last time.
As I drove away I expected to feel nostalgia or regret, but I didn’t. Instead I felt lighter, excited. Looking forward to my new adventure as a teacher of teachers. I’m not retiring. I’m rebooting!