Retirement So Far…

by Cindi on January 3, 2018

Last August, I provided training for approximately 300 beginning teachers across eight school districts just prior to their first days of teaching. As I shared my teacher stories with them and talked of my own students across the years, I realized just how much I envied them, how I wished I was making plans for my own classroom again.

So on September 1st, I submitted retirement paperwork to my state with plans to drive four miles to the adjoining state and begin a brand new career. I stayed awake many nights during the months those papers were snaking around between my mailbox, my school district, and the state retirement system. I planned my classroom – what would the reading center look like? Would I have a sofa, a loft, a clawfoot tub full of pillows? How about a fish tank like I had in 2004, full of school-spirited fish sporting school colors? I dreamed of a costume corner where students could grab outfits and dress like book characters. I dreamed I would dress like book characters myself every day!

I began taking notes of the best practices I saw in classrooms; my job provided many opportunities for me to be in schools all over the state. I took pictures of data charts and anchor charts. I listed the coolest technology apps on my Google, well, app. I fretted over “stuff” – I’ve given books and supplies away since I was last in front of a classroom myself; I made mental shopping lists that went on and on…I NEED A STAPLER!

I fretted, too, over whether I am still qualified to teach. Everyone who knows me dismissed my concerns and provided lists that mirrored my resume: the thirty years in front of classrooms, the accolades, the publications. But still…I know this work…and I know I’ve been out of the trenches for seven years. I’ve been closely connected, though, so I know about the changes in curriculum, technology, assessments, etc. I told myself the learning curve would be curvy, but I was ready for the ride! I worked hour after hour, gathering transcripts, completing applications, writing cover letters, and securing references. I hit “submit.” Then I waited. And I remembered:

July of 1979. I was a recent college graduate holding a degree in secondary English education and confidence in myself as a teacher that I have rarely felt since. I walked into my desired school district and completed an application – no online business back then. The receptionist never looked at me when she mumbled, “Someone will be in touch.” I walked out to my car and stopped. I said, “No!” aloud to anyone within earshot, turned, and walked back in. I asked the receptionist if the district had a curriculum director I could talk to. She said, “No, but all the high school principals are in that room behind you.” I turned and took a spot by the door.

I was 21 years old. I had on a sundress. At the end of the day, I had a job. 

A different teacher has waited anxiously to hear from principals in reference to my current job search. I was TERRIFIED when I received an email about an interview for an instructional coach position. I have served as a coach before; I know more than anyone that you have to have relationships with the staff and a great deal of credibility to do that job. I have neither in another state. I was upfront about that in my cover letter. I have never taught their standards; I have never seen the standardized tests that their students need to pass. It was a long shot for sure. But that interview taught me so much: times they are a’changin’…ummm….they’ve already changed…and they’ve left me in the dust. Data dust that is.

When the principal greeted me in the lobby, I was all smiles and Let me at ’em…give me a classroom and some middle school kids…I’m ready to meet the staff and make new BFFs…I got this!!!  I even wore the school’s colors (yay, fish!) But instead of sitting down with a panel of teachers (my new friends! Hey, Y’all!), I was led to a laptop, given two pieces of paper (and thirty minutes). Yay, a test! I love tests. The assessment center part of my National Board for Professional Teaching Standards process was a highlight for me. I even love a timed test! I voluntarily signed up to serve as a participant when National Board piloted their updated tests for English teachers a few years ago.

So…I looked at the two papers in my hand…and I may have said,”Uhoh” aloud. (I may have said something else.) Two pages full of numbers. I don’t do numbers. I’m an English teacher. I swear it looked like Matt Damon’s chalkboard in Good Will Hunting.

I froze. I stared. I tried to breathe. Then I realized I was looking at student test scores. Okay, I’m not sunk yet. Except, well, the acronyms looked like Egyptian. I’ve never given these tests. I don’t know the acronyms. But I tried my best to answer to the prompt – strategies needed to address instruction of students who achieved these Good Will Hunting acronym test scores. I did the best I could. But I left there surprised that I ever taught a day of school, much less 30 years! I could hear my 21-year-old self telling me to suck it up, Buttercup! There’ll be other interviews…

In my National Teacher of the Year portfolio, I called for an end to the over-testing of kids. I did research on stressed out students in graduate school – one second grader said the school was quiet one day because of E-I-E-I-Os (they’re called EOGs and EOCs in North Carolina – End of Grade and End of Course tests). One year, just as I began my teacher-on-loan job, I went to help a school on the first day. I noticed the “Quiet. Students Testing” sign. Assessments. On the first day. Did the teachers even know the students’ names yet?

I do believe in the power of assessments, though, and it looks like I have some studying to do to catch up. What I have relied on before – positive relationships with students and staff and a strong work ethic – is not gonna be enough.

All this to say, all those nights I was awake, I had thought today would be the first day of my new career. I’ve applied for everything from coach to teacher to paraprofessional to substitute. I know it’s a weird time of year to get a teaching job. I know I’ve been “away” awhile. I know I’m not 21 anymore and most teachers (and administrators) are the ages of my children.

But I’m not giving up.

And I’m in the market for a sundress.

This candle is one of my retirement gifts. I light it every day. 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gwen Smith January 3, 2018 at 1:23 am

I love you and admire you so much!!!!! You are going to do great things whatever it is.


2 Cindi January 3, 2018 at 2:07 pm

I love you back! I just want to be like you when I grow up…xoxoxo


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