Monday, June 5, 2017

Retirement Reality

I officially turned in my school keys today! (But I kept the lanyard.)
June 5, 2017

The momentous day has finally arrived! As of about 2:30 this afternoon, I turned in my check-out materials and handed over my keys, and I am now officially retired! I think the handing over of the keys was the part that made it finally start to seem real. After 27 years of carrying those keys and popping in and out of my classroom at will throughout summers and holidays, suddenly I could no longer let myself into my classroom. Because it's no longer my classroom. It's a little bit surreal.

I arrived on the district grounds around 8:20 this morning and went straight to the special services office, which is housed in the elementary school. I turned in my special education-supplied iPad and said my farewells to our special ed director, Meghan, and her secretary, Cheri. Then, as I passed through the elementary office, I was stopped for big bear-hugs from the principal, Dave, and his office staff. Principal Dave used to be one of our high school counselors, so we go way back.

Made a final check of my box in the teachers' workroom.

Along the way to my building (East Campus), I stopped into the high school's main office to check my box (which was uncharacteristically empty). There, I ran into counselor Jill, who gave me another big hug, and assistant principal Rebecca, as well as former science teacher Steve, who'd resigned last year and gone to work for the University of Arizona. Steve and I worked on our Masters degrees together back in 1994-96, often sharing rides to classes in various, far-flung rural towns. He says he likes his new job, but he still misses his high school students at times.

Finally, just after 9:00, I reported to my classroom to finish up the purging of my personal belongings that I'd begun on Friday, with much-appreciated help from my diligent aide, Joe, as well as Mr. V and his two high school-aged sons (both students in my classes). They did the heavy lifting and carrying that I could not, so they are my heroes! Today, though, it was just me and a few final checks on my list.

Attended one last faculty meeting (this one was in the cafeteria).

I had to leave my classroom tasks to attend one last faculty meeting at 10:00. There were cakes to be eaten and words of acknowledgement for those of us who are leaving Blue Ridge. The English department has been decimated. Literally. Not only am I retiring, but so are two other English teachers, Lisa and Leigh. On top of that, our department chair, Gwen, has taken a position at a middle school in the Valley, to be closer to her adult children and grandchildren. That leaves only Lori, who was a fresh-out-of-college newbie teacher when she joined our department ten months ago.

All my drawers and cupboards have been emptied of my personal stuff.

After the meeting ended, I returned to my classroom to work for half an hour and to have Gwen sign my check-out materials. Then it was time for the district-wide staff appreciation barbecue at 11:30. I took my camera along but, for some unknown reason, I forgot to take any pictures. Suffice it to say, the food was good (burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, chips, and a brownie) and the company was pleasant. We found a table that was, thankfully, in the shade and blessed with a soft, cooling breeze. Our temperature actually got up to about 90 degrees today, so the breeze was especially nice. I pretty much had to tear myself away when I was done eating. It was so relaxing to simply enjoy the weather and the chit-chat.

My desk looks barren. (The now-missing printer cabinet was mine...)

Before the barbecue, I'd suddenly realized that I'd forgotten to bring in my external drive to upload all my school files of worksheets and study guides and tests and other materials (more than 600 of them) I'd developed over the past twenty-seven years. When you spend so much time pouring your heart and soul into materials for your students, you find yourself reluctant to simply leave them behind for someone else to pick through. Don't get me wrong, I'm more than happy to share with anyone who might be able to use them (we teachers are good at that), but I also couldn't bring myself to simply "abandon" them.

I took pictures of the student artwork covering my classroom walls
before I tore it all down. There's some real talent in these class projects!

And thus I raced home after the luncheon to get my external drive. I was surprised to find that Mark was already home from work (Denny's was slow today, he said), so I coerced him into returning to the school with me so he could carry out the remaining items I was gathering into two final bags. Plus the yoga ball that I used instead of a desk chair at my desk and computer.

Mark came along to help clear my room. This is him helping...

It took me about an hour and a half to finish up. Mark scrubbed some student desks for me, but then he decided he was bored out of his mind waiting for me. He stretched out on the couch in the Read 180 reading area and slept for an hour.

My aide Joe decided to retire, too, after working together for five years.

I left several posters on the walls and plenty of books on the shelves for the incoming teachers to consider or use over the coming months, but the room looked barren without the displays of student work and my personal items. And not only my stuff. My aide for the past five years, Joe, finally decided a couple of months ago that he was ready to retire, as well, so his desk area was cleared out, never to have him seated at his desk again.

My student teacher, Mr. V, had also cleared out. However...

Even Mr. V's desk, which we'd found in a jumble of stored furniture down the hall and dragged to my room despite it's missing parts, looked forlorn because he'd come in over the weekend and removed the last of his things from it. However, I'm thrilled to report that he signed his contract with the district today and is taking over my Resource classes. Hooray! Mr. V won't be in my old classroom, though. One of our new English teachers, this one from Colorado, will likely be using my room. She told me she's a huge Harry Potter fan and loved my Harry Potter posters, and she was especially excited when I told her I was leaving them. As far as we know, Mr. V and my Resource English students will be down the hall, at the opposite end of the building. There are lots of changes happening in the district this summer...

Eventually, the end was upon us. With my car loaded up, I stopped by the high school office to drop off my keys and give my check-out materials to our principal, Jay. He also gave me a big hug and expressed his sadness at my going but his hope for a bright future. Rebecca, our assistant principal, asked if I felt any nostalgia at all yet. Not really, I said. I expect that will come later, when I have time to miss the good times, the good kids, the colleagues, and the challenges. I told her it would probably hit me when I began sharing my tales out of school here in my blog. Then she gave me a warm hug, too.

My nephew Burke and niece Elsie helped me celebrate!

After we drove away from the school, we headed toward Show Low to take care of some business. As so often happens, Mark suggested a stop at Dairy Queen, where we decided that banana splits looked yummier than Blizzards, at least for today. My awesome niece Elsie and groovy nephew Burke happened to be working at DQ when we got there. To my delighted surprise, Elsie remembered that today was my last day on the job, and she presented our banana splits as a retirement gift from her! It's a plain fact that I have the coolest nieces and nephews ever! And Mark and I agreed, those were the tastiest, most scrumptious banana splits ever!

My enchiladas.

Mark and I ended the night with a celebratory dinner at Los Corrales. This day has been a long time coming, so worth the wait and so worth the celebrating. And tomorrow I step into a whole new life. Wish me luck!

Mark's chimichanga.


Grandma Honey said...

Congratulations! Such a journey accomplished. Anxious to hear about your next chapter.

Mary said...

Thank you! I have a long list of things planned!