Friday, July 26, 2013

Teachers Everywhere Are Getting Ready before They're Ready to Get Ready

Friends ask, "How's retirement going?"  Come on, you guys.  I'm a teacher.  A summer off is a summer off.  Whether you're a teacher or a retiree, summer is vacation time.  So far, this summer is no different than the last fifty odd years' summers have been.  Ask me mid-August, when all of my friends are heading back to school for inservice meetings, faculty meetings, and district meetings.  THEN, I hope that I will be pleasantly surprised that life IS different for a retiree.

The realization is starting to sink into my skull slowly, ever so slowly.  A couple of weeks ago as Bridger and I were driving into town, his eyes lit up as he turned to me and said, "I just realized, I won't have to help you get your room ready this year!"  We both smiled.

I have always counted on my kids to help me turn that chaos of stacked furniture and empty bulletin boards into a homey classroom that would welcome my new students.  It's HARD to cover twelve foot long bulletin boards with only one pair of arms!  It's STRENUOUS to move three dozen desks and chairs into a creative classroom arrangement!  It's TIME-CONSUMING to pass out all of those textbooks and classroom supplies.  Add any of my three kids into the mix, though, and suddenly, it's a circus.  It's fun.  We laughed.  We drank sodas from the faculty room Pepsi machine.  We walked across the street to Bullies Drive-In for lunch.  We listened to music and cranked up the swamp cooler (Utah's answer to central air!) and whipped my fifth grade classroom into shape.  Will I miss that?  Yeah, I think I will.

Being retired doesn't mean my sub-conscious knows I don't have to report for duty this year.  Sleep always eluded me as August approached.  My head would spin with to-do lists, homeroom class lists, seating arrangements, bulletin board ideas, lesson plans, and wondering how I would ever get everything done before the first day of school.  My brain doesn't know we get to relax this year, apparently, because when I go to sleep, the dreams of my past come to haunt me.

Our fifth grade team was a rare combination of people who actually LIKED working together and we all took care of recess duty together so we could catch up on each other's lives and laugh together. Already this summer, I've had the dreams where I'm oblivious to team meetings that are taking place where my presence is required, and I'm outside at recess duty, all alone, feeling grumpy that my team is not joining me outside. Then it hits me that we're supposed to be at a meeting, and I need to find them!  I'M the one in trouble, not them!  I have this recurring nightmare because it happened so frequently.  I became the absent-minded professor toward the end of my career, spacing off faculty meetings and forgetting scheduled appointments with my team.  We all laughed about it, but I seriously began to question my sanity and "with-it-ness" those last weeks of school.

Last night, in my dreams, I was starting a new year in a new school in a new state!  Yes, I was in sunny California, and Johnny Whittaker (remember him from Family Affair as Buffy's twin brother Jody?) was a visitor at my school. Of course, I introduced myself, reminding him that we had lived in the same neighborhood when I was in college.  And, of course, he did not even have a vague recollection of me, even in my dreams.  Anyway, in my state of slumber, my second day of school was a flurry of activity, passing out papers, assigning work, and getting to know my students.  "Why do we have to do THIS?" asked a pretty little thing, as I assigned the week's spelling words.  I wonder the same thing myself, as one who doesn't need to study spelling to pass a test.  In my dream, I didn't even bother to come up with a suitable answer to alleviate her irritation with the assignment, but the question ruffled my feathers, even though I smiled as I handed her the packet of work.

And so another school year starts in the minds of teachers everywhere.  It is not even August, but I see your Facebook posts about your summer training meetings and your wonderful kids helping you get bulletin boards ready.  You are blowing up the Pinterest home page with fun activities and classroom themes that will welcome your newest charges.  You are already stockpiling school supplies at home that you've been buying at all of the back-to-school sales.  I know you are.  I was once you.

This morning my husband and I were eating breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.  I was telling him it seemed so odd not to be scurrying off to Staples or Office Max to gather dozens of composition notebooks, markers, and pens.  I laughed about my dream as I told him that I thought those nightmares would all be behind me.  Some things have improved since school ended in May.  I haven't needed sleeping pills since the last day of school, and it has been delightful to sleep WAY past 4:30, sometimes even staying in bed until 8:00.  I never would have imagined that for myself.  Now someone just needs to tell my brain that I've retired.  If I could trade in these nightmares about school for some sweet dreams of retirement, I would feel like I'm truly ready to enjoy this new phase of my life.

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