Friday, July 24, 2020

Retirement: emotions

I remember the emotions I felt when colleagues, friends, and family members retired. Those emotions ranged from sadness to anger and happiness too. Each time, my emotions depended on lots of related factors. My retirement announcement has elicited a similar range of responses. 

Like our dreams, our emotions help us to understand who we are and what we want. The way we react to our own experiences and the experiences and decisions of others tells us something about ourselves. What brings us extraordinary joy? What worries us? What energizes us? These questions help us to pinpoint the cause of our emotions, and the directions those emotions move us in.

As I consider the new horizon, I have to think about the past too.

In so many ways, it was the right time to retire. Last year was one of my best teaching years--it wasn't the easiest year of teaching, but as a team, we made many incredible gains in the program we offered and the learning experiences we provided for children. When COVID-19 struck, we rose to the challenge and did a very good job. I'm proud of that work and effort. 

The new chapter of teaching and learning during COVID-19 will require teachers to be very strong. The energy required to work against so many powers unfamiliar with what good teaching and learning looks like in order to teach well will be extraordinary. Teachers will face that in all kinds of ways. Some will simply go along, reserving their energy for post-COVID-19 teaching, and others will fight against unfriendly, unsafe, and poor working conditions for children and adults. How teachers face this challenge will vary depending on age, underlying risk factors, leadership actions, privilege, and more. It will be a messy time of teaching and learning.

Typically, messiness doesn't worry me, but messiness that involves risk to my life does worry me. I just could not take the chance at this time--I have too much that I want to do in the days ahead in life to take a chance like that. The story of the teacher in Arizona who passed away stuck with me--in many ways that teacher was just like me. I didn't want to put myself in a position of potential harm. So I weighed the pros and cons and decided to retire.

Of course, like any retiree, I'm filled with a large range of emotions. Of course, there's some anger. COVID-19 alone elicits anger on many levels--anger that our national leadership ignored pandemic warnings and didn't take this virus seriously. Had they acted with responsibility from the start, we would not be in the position we are in. The national response continues to be irresponsible and worrisome creating havoc with lives and the economy. There is also anger that many are ignoring teachers' voices about good, safe teaching in the fall--many distanced from classroom life think they know more about what happens in schools than educators. This is frustrating and worrisome. What's more infuriating is that some of those decision makers truly appear to not care whether some lives are lost or greatly compromised. And of course, there's anger about the confusion between childcare and education--too many want schools to open solely to provide childcare negating the value that a positive, child-centered education brings to every community. 

There's a level of guilt too with this decision. I care about the children, I care about my colleagues and I care about the school system. I am a good teacher who truly enjoys working with children. I had planned some amazing teaching efforts for the fall, and I will miss doing the work that I've done for so long. 

And of course, there is joy too. I've been working for almost 50 years--that's a long time. I'm looking forward to living a simple life until COVID-19 passes and then thinking about next steps. I truly enjoy helping people live good lives and suspect that I may end up teaching math to small groups of children or turning my love of research and writing into more formal articles and books. Though, often the plans I imagine change, so time will tell what truly happens. 

First, however, I'll do what I can to stay healthy, complete a number of unfinished tasks, and care for family members. I also hope to explore natural places at times when those places are less crowded which will be a treat, and I hope to spend more time with people I love. 

Retirement, like any big event in life, brings about a large range of emotions, and it's important to consider those emotions and let those emotions direct you in some ways. Onward.