Friday, May 29, 2015

The Time Has Come

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."- The Walrus and The Carpenter, L. Carroll

The book of Ecclesiastes says "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." Then gives a list of the kinds of activities that qualify as those having a season. While there is no mention of retirement anywhere in that list, it has come to be in our society that if you live and work long enough, retirement usually becomes an option. And so it is with me. Today, May 29, 2015 was my last day in the classroom with students. It's true I have 2 more days in my contract next week, but teaching is about the students, so that is what I count.
This was exam week for the high school. That means less than it used to. Advanced Placement courses had their national exam 3 or 4 weeks ago. Several science and social studies courses have state administered End Of Course (EOC) exams 2 and 3 weeks ago. In both those cases, the student has no school/teacher administered final exam this week. Astronomy is neither of those so I gave my exam yesterday, Thursday, May 28. For many, it was their last final exam of the year and for seniors, their high school career. It was my final final exam to give.
This week was a roller coaster of emotions for me. There was excitement at the impending conclusion of my teaching career and the prospects of freedom of schedule and opportunity to travel, alternating with regret that I would be losing the opportunity to teach any more students. A chapter in the story of my life was definitely reaching a conclusion. 
There was a study done several decades ago seeking a correlation between certain life events and illness. The interesting thing I took from the study was the ranking of life change events and their stress. The most stressful is the death of a spouse. Retirement ranked tenth behind marital reconciliation and ahead of pregnancy/gaining a new family member. The take away is that retirement is not necessarily free of stress, both for the retired worker and the (in my case) wife.
Regardless, I determined that I was going to make this week worth remembering. I gave more handshakes and hugs than I can remember. I used more than my usual amount of tissue wiping my eyes. There is no doubt, I am going to miss this.
Wednesday, the day before the astronomy final exam, my last period astronomy class pulled a fast one on my. They got me good. As students were coming in to class, a campus aide came up to me and told me the principal wanted to see me. This has not happened to me since I was a student. I told her that I had a class to teach and she said she would watch them, after taking me to the office in her golf cart. So I went and told the students I would be back as soon as I could.

We drove to the admin building and went to the principal's office. His secretary said that he had not called for me and he was busy. I was a little confused and chalked it up to miscommunication. We drove back to my classroom and as I approached, I noticed that the small window in the door was covered with a cardboard insert that I use when showing video clips or slides. I thought the students were playing around and as I opened the door, heard a shout "Surprise. Happy Retirement!" or something similar. They got me. I had not a clue. (And, yes, the aide and secretary were in on it.) They posted a sign at the front of the room, festooned the room with balloons and had cake and soft drinks. (A student posted pictures on facebook. Here's one of them.) Thank you, guys.
 In the photo I am holding a wooden box. That was a gift from another student. He had heard me make reference, from time to time, to getting on and off my soap box, so he made me an actual soap box, sturdy enough that I can really stand on. That was a terrific present. Thank you Peter.

 I have told you that I have great students. And these things serve as evidence.

Thank you for reading this. I will make one more post here before I transition to a blog at my site.

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