Just this morning, I took the outgoing mail down to the box and dropped in in. Included with the monthly bills was a form letter to my former school district declining their offer to continue working for them as a substitute teacher. I finally decided to stop teaching–entirely.
When I retired, I refused to sign up for any classes or do any kind of structured activity for the first six months. I had been in school for 53 straight years, first as a student and then as a teacher, and was delighted to not have a daily time schedule. I was happy that I no longer had to wait until the bell rang to go pee.
I was as surprised as anyone when I did the paperwork to become a substitute teacher after that six months passed. I quickly discovered that I needed to put down limits. I’d only sub for English or social studies teachers (subjects I knew pretty well), only at two schools where I had friends, and only for teachers who I respected because I knew they knew how to run a classroom. Every time I made an exception, I ended up regretting it.
For the first few years, going back to my school, was a pleasure. It was fun to see my ex-colleagues and meet new teachers. There was a cadre of former students still there who knew me because I had been their freshman English teacher, so I was not an entirely unknown quantity.
Going to the other school was a test, having taught for 36 years in one place, but among the groups I subbed for, I quickly became just another teacher and a sub that they (usually) respected. You have to understand, the pool of competent subs is so thin that showing up with a level of confidence and expertise was often something kids appreciated. I was shocked at the number of times kids actually thanked me for being their sub that day.
I learned to always ask the teachers I subbed for to email me lesson plans the night before when possible, so I could go in feeling prepared and even read what the kids had read if we were going to do something text-related. Getting to interact with the kids without having to do any significant preparation and then walk away without any papers to grade was wonderful, and getting in front of a classroom again felt really good.
But then there were days when I’d end up showing the same film for 5 hours, or administering tests for the entire day. I’d feel like the clock-watching students, just anxious for the day to be over.
I started turning down so many jobs that the demand began to dry up. I had grown so used to spending time in my yard, or taking my daily walks, or going hiking that I hated being required to be indoors. I didn’t like being on my feet all day and coming home feeling exhausted with my back aching. Taking sub jobs meant I’d miss yoga classes or time with my hiking group or acupuncture appointments I’d been looking forward to.
So, last year, I put the word out that I was pretty sure I was done. I volunteered for a couple of school-related things to help out friends–proctoring AP tests, being a part of a panel for senior-project presentations–but that was it.
This year, no calls at all. I guess I am done as a teacher. I’m not an entrepreneur. I don’t need the time to start a new career, but I do want to have the time to learn new things and maybe become good at something that’s not teaching. I gave 40 years to teaching. I think it’s time to let it go.