The Season of Our Discontent

The calming sunset of retirement for teachers is a false narrative for many.

Here are a few things I bet you didn’t know about teachers:

  1. We don’t make friends easy since no one wants to hang out with us due to our 24/7 schedule. And we’re usually exhausted anyway.
  2. Our social life is determined by summer weekends only. Most weekends during the school year we are preparing for the onslaught of the coming week. Or we have to supplement our low income with yet another job.
  3. Seldom do we make time for hobbies. Between raising a family and teaching, outside time rarely exists. When it does, usually we teachers just like to chill!
  4. We are defined, almost in total, by the title teacher. It’s a badge of courage and fortitude as we journey through admin who won’t support us, parents who demean us, colleagues who challenge us and a community who denies our very existence through low wages and poor working conditions.
  5. Right or wrong, we live vicariously through our students’ successes and failures. We love what we do but on many days we wonder why?! Oh, I remember: it’s the kids. Always the kids!

I met another retired teacher (36 years) a few days ago. Before our conversation ended, she was in tears. She cannot find herself in post retirement. Fighting back my own tears, I could only sympathize. Did she have friends as a support group? No. Did she have a hobby? Yes, but is seemed meaningless. The calming sunset of retirement for teachers is a false narrative for many.

All of the above is true for me at least. But instead of teaching 10-20 years, I rode the roller coaster of teaching for 46 years. I did have a plan for post teaching but unfortunately I didn’t prepare for my sudden departure brought upon by an admin who willingly threw me out without due process. Since my demise was made very public in local and regional news, my integrity was left in question. So I wrote a book about my myriad experiences as a teacher. I’m Paula Baack, the author of Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!

Plan B was to market my book to universities, school boards, school staff meetings and the general public. It was going pretty well until Covid struck. I know that can be said about everything.

So enter Plan C. Writing a blog, doing a podcast and using social media seemed the best way to reach out to the public about how we can improve our educational system. Most days I fill the internet cloud with my philosophy of education, ways and means to attain better schools and ideas to stave off persecution of our most valuable asset: teachers. Am I making a difference? I don’t know. Hanging on to the “if one person is positively affected” just isn’t enough. My post teaching life’s purpose appears empty of validation.

Last week, however, cast a little light on my journey to leave the teaching world better than I found it. Two former students, both in their 20’s reached out to me. “John” is in the military and writing hip hop music. He shared a song he just completed. It was amazing. Great beats, fun instrumental backing and very cool vocals. John admitted he was a handful in school which is no exaggeration. But I always liked working with those kids who didn’t walk to the drumbeat of the perfect child.

And then two days later, “Sheila” tagged me in a Facebook post. In Messenger, she related how she still sang the songs we performed but now it was to her little boy. Oh my heart! Those words alone lifted my spirits but then she went on. Sheila shared that I had no idea how much I influenced her life in a most positive way. Actually, I did have some idea for Sheila also struggled in school trying to appease what was defined as “normal.”

So today, I challenge you: send a message, email or a letter to the teachers who affected your life in a positive way. Take the time to let them know they did make a difference and your orbit is better for crossing a caring teacher’s life journey. Do it. Right now. You now have the power to intersect a teacher’s life with words of affirmation. Trust me, we need those words. Everyday.

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