For nearly twenty-five years I spent the month of August preparing for a new school year. I commuted back and forth to school. I attended professional development workshops and meetings; some less relevant than others. I decorated my classroom and later my library to welcome students back. I collected certificates from the state-mandated online courses about blood borne pathogens, sexual harassment, and a myriad of other topics repeated exactly the same every single year. Every August I studied a new way of doing old things because every year the wheel is re-invented. I learned the expectations of the school principal, the district, and the state; I adjusted accordingly.
Students returned and we all fell into a routine that was unique for that particular year. I learned my students’ names, their strengths and weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. And they got to know me too.
A TEACHER’S YEAR
The life of an educator cycles through the year in a way that is unique compared to other professions. Each season or month holds its own, distinct expression. From August to June, time is measured by holidays and test dates. Valentine Parties and Field Days. Cafeteria Thanksgiving and book fairs. Pep rallys and football games. Homecoming and Prom.
September is a completely different experience when you don’t work in a school. It feels slower than it used to be. When September comes, teachers and students are so involved in activities that it’s hard to notice the days growing shorter. It’s still hot here in Texas, but the mornings and afternoons are cooler than before. There is a breeze and the air has a different scent. Now that I am no longer part of the education system, I get to slow down and notice the gradual and quiet change that occurs this time of year. It’s nice.
Now I get to immerse all of my senses in the changes around me. I get to spend more time outside. For the first time, I see that September is a wonderful month. It’s not just being away from school culture that makes me so aware, but also because I have learned to live in the moment, to be mindful of the here and now rather than constantly planning what comes next. This is a fantastic way to live. It’s what we strive for.
In September birds behave differently, squirrels are busier, different kinds of flowers bloom. People act differently too. Although the weather still says summer, people display pumpkins on their front porches, suffer the heat in pants and sweaters and drink pumpkin lattes. They fall into an autumn mindset, looking ahead to Halloween, Thanksgiving and beyond. Not me; I squeeze out as much summertime as I possibly can.
Teaching is a rewarding profession. For many years it was just right for me. I feel fortunate, however, to explore new ways to live, to see things from another perspective, to really stop and look around and watch the seasons change. I am lucky to have so many experiences.
I left the school in December. Other retired teachers told me I wouldn’t feel retired from education until the beginning of the new school year; then it would hit me. That is true. I do not miss it. I loved what I did at the time, but no, I don’t miss it. Both things can be true.
Happy Fall ya’ll. I think I’ll go for a swim!