Done, but not finished

It’s that time in the school year.

No, not exams or graduations, but retirements.

Now, if your district honours the contributions made by people who have left active employment and keep them in the digital social circles, you know who is retiring.  But, your district might have cut you off at the knees the moment that you left employment.  In that case, you may well remain connected via Facebook or other social media mechanism.  If that doesn’t work, you might get an email from friends still there.  Or, a dear friend might give you a specialized personal invitation.

In my case, this morning, I found out about a retirement via a Facebook post but it was pictures of the celebration so definitely was after the fact.  I can’t help but think, though, that teachers are a special breed of people and that the connections do remain after the long days, the endless lesson preparing, the testing, and the assessing.

Where it’s particularly rewarding comes from former students who reach out to say thanks; some many years after you parted ways.  It’s always interesting to see where they may land.  I’ve had contact with many who have landed careers in computer science but there have been others that have become teachers, engineers, politicians, first responders, doctors, nurses, musicians, actors, actresses, homemakers, parents, …  It’s interesting to see them reflect about times that we were together in the classroom although in much different roles.  Some even comment back on coaching experiences.  What always impresses me about my mind is that, when the contact is made, I’m able to dig up images and bits of memories of these students.

It’s not just the students that make the contact.  There have been teaching colleagues who like to make the contact and talk about experiences.  It’s nice to know that, even years later, they appreciate the all-night email support that I was able to provide.  True teaching professionals don’t work 9-3, but if you’re a teacher, you know that.  It’s also true though that teachers are generally kind to each other and certainly to students.

Then, there’s something that hits you right out of the blue.

On Saturday night, a teacher from 30 years ago called to indicate that she and her husband were in town and they would like to get together and have a chat.  We agreed to meet at a Tim Horton’s that certainly wasn’t there when they were last in town.  It was a great time to get caught up although certainly you don’t do all those years justice in a couple of hours.  There was a moment that totally took me by surprise and I certainly hadn’t thought about it except for probably a moment in passing when it happened.

I still remember when you introduced me to ***** and I kept it in mind during lesson preparations and marking.

Wow.  Needless to say, I had no independent recollection of that.  So, folks, don’t ever ask me to be a reliable witness.  It wasn’t the event that I think struck me the most.  It was how something this small could remain with her all these years.  It gave added meaning to some of the anecdotes from contacts that I’ve had with others.

At the same time, it serves as a reminder to be kind and understanding.  What you think might have been just a passing gesture may well be the thing that is remembered about you.

I hope that those who are retiring take a moment to think about all the lives that they’ve had the honour to influence, whether it be students, colleagues, parents, or community.  Yes, you’ll be out with your kids and see spelling mistakes on posters in a store and have this uncontrollable urge to look for a red pen to circle it – or today’s equivalent – take a picture and post it on social media.  “Daaaaad, you’re such a teacher”.

Resist the urge and just consider it a reminder that you reached out and influenced so many.  They’ll come back somewhere along the line to let you know how much they appreciated your work.

My best, in retirement, to Mrs. C. and all those who make the big move this week.

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One Reply to “Done, but not finished”

  1. Lovely, thoughtful piece. I’m in a weird state of mind about that “done, but not finished” thing today. I’m on a 4/5 next year, and will come back with 5 years to go. It’s a “dry run” for retirement, but also prepping to make that last 5 years easier on me and the people I love (this transition year was a tough one on all of us). It feels strange to be leaving, but not leaving, if that makes any sense.

    Liked by 1 person

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