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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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