Sunday, June 30, 2019 – Grateful for RETIREMENT
So it has happened.
Thirty-four years have gone by since I graduated college and headed into the education profession. And now here I am reflecting back on a journey that has taken me from 22 to 56, Catholic school teacher to public school teacher to public school administrator and back to Catholic school administrator. It is a full circle that has encompassed hundreds of people and thousands of stories. It is a journey that has taken me from my local mixed community to one of the most affluent communities in Connecticut to one of the poorest communities in Connecticut. It has taken me through the world of special education where often extreme demands were made to only focus on that one student to a faith-based world where students with special learning needs do without so that they will learn and be nurtured in an environment based on Christ’s love.
This full-circled journey has given me thousands of conversations and experiences to reflect on, draw upon, laugh about, and cry a little about. I don’t regret a second of the path I chose 34 years ago! Of course there are things I will miss and moments I won’t miss. Some conversations fall into both categories sometimes!
My conversations over the years have allowed me to journey from statements such as “I want you to know that we will be pulling the children out for two weeks to go on a safari in Africa with the grandparents. Every child MUST experience this!” to “I don’t want to pull the children out for the week, but their grandmother is dying in Guatemala and we haven’t been able to afford to go back home to see her in eight years. Is that OK with you?”
I do know I will not miss suspending a child. That journey always takes a path that is interesting. Those conversations have ranged from a mom telling me “I am not sure you can suspend him. You will have to call my husband at work” (even though I was sure I could and should suspend the young man) to “Go ahead, then tomorrow you will have to call DCF when I beat the crap out of him tonight.” Parents certainly have different parenting styles!!
In the educational world parents have all kinds of ways of showing their support for their children, the teachers, and the administrators. Support comes in all shapes and sizes when it comes to dealing with other people’s children. A parent’s choice of words reveal so much culturally and socially.
“I will check his notebook every night. Or if I can’t, I will have the nanny do it.”
“Do you know how much we have spent on a tutor this summer to get him into the highest math class?”
“I can’t be the only parent who has complained about the teacher. My child says she is failing every kid. They are all getting B’s.”
“Of course you are suspending him. You suspended his brother two years ago! Who is your mentor, Judge Judy?”
“I am not sure what a D will do for him, but I am sure glad it is not the F’s he was getting last year!”
And when I had to call DCF, and then call the Dad to tell him I had to call DCF because we watched the video tape from our own school cameras, “Of course I took a belt to her hands! She was being disrespectful to your teacher. The teacher called me about it! She won’t do that again.”
The conversations and words pop up as sound bites in my head, but the experiences I have flow through my mind and my heart as well. The sudden death of a teacher when I was an assistant principal prepared me for the sudden death of a teacher when I was the principal. Watching my principal manage the crisis of the day on 911 was nothing short of phenomenal. That prepared me for the smaller daily crisis like power outages in the middle of the day or a small fire in the wiring in the middle of a math class, or telling a colleague that a phone call just came in that her dad had passed away. Having the blessing of watching a mother take care of her very special needs child guided me in the ways to talk to another mom about her mildly disabled child as I fully recognized that love is love and mothers see and feel the deepest meaning of love when it comes to their babies. Dealing with hundreds of individuals (students, teachers, and parents) who all come to the school with a variety of biases, needs, desires, fears, life situations, and variations of true mental illnesses, have taught me to hold off judgement for as long as I can, then recognize and accept that I can only do what I can do to help the situation. That is my only goal when the situations seemed crazy!
So many snippets from thousands of moments in time. Thirty-four years times 180 school days is 6,120 days. If each day averaged out to six hours a day, the straight math tells me that I have had a minimum of 36,720 hours that can be broken down into 2, 203,000 minutes of opportunities for conversations with parents, students, teachers, other administrators, maintenance people, contractors, building inspectors, politicians, police and fire personnel and so many other individuals! In reality, I have probably had millions of interactions that have shaped and reshaped my thinking and my understanding of all kinds of topics in life! And that doesn’t even count the twenty years worth of summer time conversations as an administrator preparing to open up the school for another Opening Day each August!
(As a side note, I tried to convince a politician once that every 6 years, an administrator works an extra 12 months (based on July and August), so therefore, we should get a “free year” towards retirement every 6 years. The legislative bill could be called “6 will get you 7”. This would kind of be like a “dog year” when calculating the life of a mutt! She didn’t think it would fly at the state level!)
For all of these moments in time (the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly and the neutral) paths were crossed, and decisions were made, for the most part, in the best interest of the students. For this, I am eternally grateful.
For the beginning of a start of a summer with no “School Work To Do list”, I am even more grateful!!
Happy Retirement to ME!!