No kidding. Today, I start my 20th year in public education. How about that? Had I begun teaching when I was 22, like most everyone else I know, this would likely be one of my last years. I could retire, even.
But you know, the more I’ve thought about it recently, the more I’ve asked myself this question: So I’d retire, fine — then what? I mean, my grandsons are eventually going to go off to school, and have lives and friends that involve other things besides going to Grammie’s. The Thriller has his schooling, and then his work in the counseling field. Many teachers I know are just living for that 30-35 year mark so they can retire. That’s cool and all, but for me — I need structure. I get into way too much trouble when I’m not chained to some grist mill wheel somewhere. I guess, truthfully, the bottom line is that I need projects that involve other people, and performance. Sure, I could get involved in community theater or a music project on my own, but chances are I’d be doing it gratis. I’d much rather drag home a meager wage for my 70-hour workweeks, thanks all the same.
Besides — isn’t 50 the new 40? I think I heard that. If not, I’m definitely making it up right now. I have lots of productive years left, and I don’t want to spend them just being able to hang out. I’m not a golfer, I don’t have a neat hobby besides writing, I don’t paint houses, I don’t want a little plot of land in a retirement community by a lake, I have no desire whatsoever to be a Walmart greeter, and Lord knows I do not want to be a substitute teacher. Now, working other jobs after retirement can be quite rewarding; not saying it can’t. But it can also be a complete drag, filled with mornings of “Why did I ever retire in the first place?” How many retirees have you heard say, “I’m more busy now than when I was working!”? And the obligatory “…at least I’m doing what I want to do” is true enough, I guess. But not always.
Feh. We’re just all built differently. And of course, this is just my opinion, and I don’t have to worry about all this for a long, long time. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad I waited to start teaching. The years I spent at home with Seamus and Lars are days you don’t get back. Wouldn’t trade them for the world. And at least for the foreseeable future, I’m not dreading my job. Not in the least, in fact. If and when the time comes that I no longer love what I do, I pray I will have the wisdom and good grace to get the heck out, and let someone else come in who has the passion I lost. Too many teachers, unfortunately, no longer love it, and their resentment shows. That’s OK if you’re pushing numbers at a desk all day, but not when you’re purporting to shape young minds and souls.
So…I’m in it for the long haul, most likely. I will teach till I’m 64, then probably retire. Much will depend on finances, of course. If I can make significantly more on my pension going the extra four years, I will, but can you see me choreographing tap routines at 68?
Hmmm. Yeah, I bet you could. Sixty-eight’s the new 58!