When I retired, I was invited to speak at the senior awards assembly at my high school. I told the students that my wish for them was that each would find as much joy and fulfillment in their life’s work as I had found in mine. I loved teaching, and I still feel a longing to be back in my very own classroom. When I think of my “kids” I miss them: “I’ll love them forever. I’ll like them for always. As long as I’m living, my students they’ll be.”
Sometimes I think back to my first years of teaching and I want to call all those former students and say, “I’m sorry.” I did so many things wrong. I made so many stupid mistakes in the name of discipline and in the denial of who I was as a person. My inclination to smile and offer words of greeting to my ninth and tenth graders was stifled by the Ed 101 dictum, “Don’t smile till Christmas!”
Fortunately, I gave up on the falseness of trying to be what I was not. But I never let go of beating myself up when things went wrong. Retirement meant that I no longer had the responsibility for the learning lives of others. But oh, how I miss the joy!