End of First Quarter: What I’ll Miss and What I Won’t

imageThis is my final year at the school where I’ve worked for the last 27 years. With some regularity, people say to me, “Aren’t you glad you’re leaving?” The answer is not as simple as Yes or No. Yes, I’ll miss some things. No, I won’t miss other things.

I won’t miss attending meetings that do not benefit students or teachers, and I won’t miss communication that doesn’t communicate.

What will I miss? The list is longer.

1. Each day I’m immersed in a school culture dedicated to improvement. Students come to school each day in order to improve themselves in a variety of ways, even if some of them are sort of ambivalent about the process. Teachers come to school each day to help students achieve those goals, and to improve our own methodology for helping students learn.

2. My school days are infused with literacy. I’m a nerd and I don’t care. I get excited about reading and writing. All day long I talk with people about reading, writing, and how to help young people get better at those essential human activities. Just today I’ve had interesting conversations with students about opposition arguments, the difficulty of deleting our own words, the benefits of placing media at the top or middle of a blog post, if a college application essay should contain more than one paragraph, the reasoning behind using present tense in literary analysis, whether all John Green books are as good as The Fault in Our Stars, why we stop reading certain novels, and whether we actually can judge a book by its cover.

Just today I’ve had discussions with colleagues about how best to help a student writer who has difficulty processing certain kinds of information, the difference between a metaphor and an analogy, and how voluntary tutoring generates better writing revision than mandatory tutoring.

Just today through Twitter I’ve helped teachers at two other schools find literacy materials that will help them better serve their students.

All this and the school day isn’t even half over yet!

3. I work with people who are passionate about their jobs. I’ll avoid details here out of respect for their privacy, but suffice it to say that, although we don’t all see the priorities of our job exactly the same way, we care deeply about serving the students of our community.

4. I’m comfortable here. I could easily navigate this school blindfolded. Although I know how things work and where to find everything, I catch myself trying to memorize details – how the carpets and walls look, the visual perspectives of different hallways, the sounds and smells that we take for granted after a while. Our school has some quirks, some of which are not all that aesthetically pleasing, but they’re our quirks, and I expect to miss at least some of them.

5. I’m kinda good at this. Although our new evaluation system classifies me as “proficient” after twenty-plus years of being rated “excellent,” I know I’m pretty good at being an English teacher—not perfect, still learning, but pretty good. It’s a blessing to go through my work days with a certain level of comfort in my expertise. It’s even better because I’m able to regularly put that expertise to work for the benefit of others. And I get paid for this. (Don’t tell anybody, but there are some things about this job that I would do for free.)

6. This is fun. Every day I laugh. Some days I laugh a lot. Every day I goof off at least a little bit. Goofing off and having fun makes learning happen more easily. Over the years I’ve designed lessons and materials that use fun as the starting point for important learning. This is probably the last go-round for some of those experiences.

Sure, some days are rough, even tragic. On those days, the fun we’ve had provides perspective and makes the difficult times easier.

After I retire from this job, I’ll do something else. I hope it will be meaningful. (Lucrative would be nice too, but that’s never been a huge priority for me.) Whatever it is, it won’t be the same. In preparation for that transition, I’m trying to throw something away each day–old files, collections of obsolete office supplies, anything on a transparency sheet, etc. On some level, throwing things away probably means I’m making room for new things. More on that later.

Thanks for reading.

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12 Responses to End of First Quarter: What I’ll Miss and What I Won’t

  1. Gray says:

    Love this! You will be missed in the field of teaching, Mr. Anderson!

  2. Marilyn J. Hollman says:

    “I’m Throwing Away Something Every Day”
    There’s a title for you.

  3. I just want to hug you after reading this. I hope I’ll get the chance in Boston. :)

  4. I love that my job is unfused with literacy too. The longer I work at my school, the more students I can talk to in the hallways about what they are reading, and they respond with a passion for books.

    Sounds like you will be deeply missed.

  5. Angenette says:

    I refuse to believe I won’t see you next year. I love #4…

  6. Angela says:

    Lovely post. “Your longing is your calling” -Louise Hay :)

  7. Glenda Funk says:

    I know exactly what you mean, Gary. I had a conversation w/ a student today who apologized for “being a dumb butt.” I could have hugged him but opted for a “thank you” and a comment that he’s not “being a dumb butt.” I had a conversation yesterday w/ a long-distance mentor who keeps telling me I need to do more w/ my life. What more could there be that matters more than professional experiences like the one (and others) I had today?

  8. sagescenery says:

    Retired for 12 years now, after teaching in NJ for 26 years…you’re right, you will never miss the endless meetings that benefit no one!!! Where an administrator reads the meeting notes…to TEACHERS…Humph, thinks we can’t read it ourselves?! I do miss lunch with my friends…I loved teaching with them..they were fun…and we still keep in touch!!
    I just started teaching part-time last year…but I prefer living the retired life!! Where each day you can choose to do whatever you want to do!! You’ll still do the things you love…but on your own schedule!!! God Bless and Happy Retirement!!

  9. Each day brings something new, I know… But here’s wishing that each day after you’re retired brings something new, as well. Each day will sill make you smile, laugh, and enjoy life. You’ll keep in touch and still be involved with the English teacher community, too! Great post, Gary. Very thoughtful and it dug at my heart. I’m so glad to know you.

  10. Jodi Moeller says:

    Love it Gary…and you! So glad I’ve had the opportunity to work and learn with you!

  11. Marilyn Berdick says:

    I’m with Angenette…I can’t comprehend our English department without you there every day. As always, thanks for the wisdom and the honesty, Gary.

  12. Communication that doesn’t communicate…. perfectly said! That is at the heart of so many issues.
    I’ve had the pleasure of facing your desk for 7 years. Not sure I’ll accept any other face looking back at me. Marilyn and Angenette hit the nail on the head, you embody the face of our English department. I can’t imagine it without you. Also, I hate change. Please stay?

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