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Learning to Retire from Teaching

March 3, 2013

Learning to Retire from Teaching

(Touches of Humor Have Been Assigned)

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

I am learning
to retire from teaching.
I must confess
that, to me, retirement
is a process:
retirement does not really happen
on one day, at one hour, or in one minute.
All that led to this career of years of teaching
must be unwound.
I have found
that I miss the students, the hours, the marking of time
by semesters, classes, and school years.
Now I am learning to mark time by retirement years:
first year, second year, …
on this new stage that too many people fear.

Do you think I am learning not to lead?
Am I learning to step aside, to sit back, to avoid speaking up?
Down the road, this will all be easier. Right?
I am left with all these memories
of leading,
of liking to lead.
Didn’t I even lead in ballroom dancing in sixth grade?
Now, I have to learn this retirement dance or fade.
Perhaps, what I need is a Flamenco outfit
(with lots of ruffles and beading)
so that I can fit better into this retirement mold
of not leading.

Leader Dog Zoe reminded me
that I have been successfully and properly
following her, Heather, and Keller
for 23 years—46 semesters plus 22 summers.
“That’s a lot of practice
at letting us be in the lead,” Zoe said.
Of course, she is right; and I pat her pretty head.

Nevertheless, I guess, she usually knows my stress.
One stumbling block of this learning process
is that I was born a teacher.
When I arrived in this world,
Doctor Loving quipped,
“One more—just like the other.”
Did he prophetically know that I was
one more teacher—just like my older sister?
My parents—a postmaster and a firefighter—
gave birth to two teachers.
My father nailed a chalkboard
to the knotty-pine wall
where my sister taught me,
and I taught my dolls and dogs.
Our models were those magnificent teachers
at Jacksonville Grade School,
but they never taught us how to retire.

Yes, I have always been a teacher—
in and out of the classroom,
behind or away from my beloved podium.
Whatever I know or have learned,
I am truly compelled to share.
So, when I learn how to retire from teaching, I declare:
I will teach you how to retire—without a care.

PAW-note: In this poem, I mention each of the three guide dogs who have blessed my life. On March 21, 1990, Keller, a gorgeous golden retriever, became my first guide dog. Yellow Labrador Heather, my second Leader Dog, came into my life on April 15, 1998. Since June 6 of 2009, Leader Dog Zoe has been the black Labrador/golden retriever mix that I have been following, appreciating, and loving. Each of these three gifted
guide dogs continue to teach me the grace of walking on a different path in life.

With best wishes for a Happy March,
Alice Jane-Marie Massa
March 2, 2013, Saturday


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  1. I love your specific references, (Dr. Loving delivered my brothers and me too!) and of course very easily relate to the content and subject matter. You expressed it well.

  2. Ah, retirement . . . not easy for those of us who have dedicated our lives to the profession, with you being at the top of the list; but I am learning . . . and enjoying. Alice, you are still teaching, just in a different way. The lives you have touched and continue to touch are forever appreciative of your efforts and energy. Job well done, dear cousin; now come to visit me! 😉

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