Well, my life as a retiree has been in operation since June 7 at noon, the hour that school was over for the summer.
My first plan in retirement was to mow the lawn that afternoon. Instead, I read a book and took a short nap. I told my wife, “I can mow the lawn on Sunday. Or Monday. Or maybe even Tuesday!”
I can see that as I begin the life of a retiree, I need to be careful not to become lackadaisical.
From that day until I write this we have made our first trip — albeit not transglobal or transcontinental, and not a cruise. But rather, a short drive to Salem, where we made the acquaintance of our tiny, newly minted granddaughter. Her mellifluous-sounding names are Cadence Aurelia.
During the concluding week of my music teaching career, I came through four major school musical events in the space of five days, It was a pretty hectic week.
The last school music I was responsible for was eighth grade graduation. It was a bittersweet experience. Not only was it the end of a plethora of eighth grade commencement events for which I had directed music, but my granddaughter was graduating and I had the emotional realization that I would not have her or my grandson in my music classes any more since I was also “graduating” into retirement.
At school, yearbooks were distributed and students had a wonderful time scurrying through the halls collecting signatures from friends and teachers. In many of the yearbooks I wrote, “I’ll miss you.” I have written and said that before in the past to the graduating eighth graders, or to those I knew were moving away. However, this time the words “I will miss you” had more of an impact since I was leaving teaching and would not be back with my students next year.
The last day of school there was a countdown as the final ten seconds of the school year expired. I was with a group of seventh graders who were intently watching the second hand of their classroom clock as they, in unison with the rest of the whole student body, yelled in a crescendo of volume the descending numbers.
When zero was reached there was a colossal cheer that resounded through the school. A bit later, on the PA system was broadcast Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” a majestic and fitting closure to the school year.
After many of the students left — some of whom amazingly proclaimed that they wished school was not over for the summer — the faculty met in the school conference room to debrief and reflect on the just-departed year.
There was much laughter and good-natured camaraderie. We closed the meeting with several teachers who volunteered to have prayer, thanking God for the bountiful blessings He had showered on the school. I also wanted to volunteer to pray but was unsure I would make it through without my voice breaking with emotion during what was for me the last Rogers School faculty get-together.
My wife and I have been downsizing in my classroom for many weeks. I found that I had collected a lot of “stuff” during my 46 years of teaching. I even had a gold paper lyre (a type of harp) with strings made of golden cord. The lyre dated back to my beginnings as an educator in Massachusetts. The art teacher at the school made it to hang outside my office announcing that I was the new music teacher. I have had it hanging on the walls of my classrooms ever since.
My wife sagely advised me that my classroom should be free of anything that reflected on my years there because the new music teachers would want to make it their own space. So during that last week of school, my wife, granddaughter and I removed everything of mine that was hanging on the walls.
Students coming into my room the last couple days of school remarked how bare it looked. A teaching colleague has observed that a cleared-out classroom just before the end of the school year is good for students to experience so that they can begin to more smoothly make the adjustment and transition to a new year and a new teacher.
I’m not a hoarder. But some things just cannot be tossed away willy-nilly. It was quite enlightening to go through the collection of my nearly half-century teaching career. Wondering what to leave and what to discard was not an easy task.
Many things we kept for our Oregon daughter-in-law who, like me, is a music teacher. The Dumpster was the recipient of quite a bit. And what was the final resting place for what I wanted to save?
Well, let’s just say that the area around our cars in our garage, storage space in our shed and open area in our family room are now quite noticeably reduced by the placement of many boxes and other teaching materials.
I tried to make sure my classroom was organized for the two teachers who will be taking my place. I did have the satisfaction, as I left the room where I had happily taught for 27 years, that things were shipshape and ready for business in the fall.
It hasn’t hit me yet that I am retired, as I have always had summers “off.” Therefore, not much seems different so far. The lawn continues to demand its weekly cropping. The weeds continue to need eradicating and the flowers need watering.
However, during previous summers I was often taking professional development classes or helping to care for our grandchildren during the time their parents were at work, while simultaneously planning the upcoming school year. It is somewhat strange to know that for so many years the summer hours I spent preparing for school will no longer be needed.
Then there are all those boxes of my teaching materials and treasures to go through.
After I take a nap.
Terry Koch is stepping into the life of a retiree after 46 years of teaching music at the grade school, high school and college levels. He can be reached at 509-529-6101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.