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Retirement Reflections and Rhymes

August 18, 2021

Retirement Reflections and Rhymes

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                Amazingly, this summer marks ten years since I retired from full-time teaching.  Where has this one decade gone?  How has it moved by so rapidly?  My Leader Dog Willow and I keep busy:  sometimes, I wish I were not quite so busy. 

                My sister, who is three years older than I, just retired from her teaching career only one year ago.  Of course, I say that she taught those nine additional years because her pre-kindergarteners did not write documented essays–term papers.  Stacks of which I graded over many years.

                On the retirement stage of life, I turned to other interests.  Besides trying to walk four miles a day with Zoe and then Willow, one of my favorite past times–as you may guess–is writing.  Occasionally, I do wonder what I would be doing in these retirement years if I were not a writer and poet.  Writing is a wonderful avocation for a retired person.  Being active in writers’ organizations and participating in critique groups, as well as having deadlines to meet, keep me in touch with other people, as well as keep me in tune with the calendar and with weekly and long-term goals.  Some highlights of this first decade of retirement have been blogging for eight-and-a-half years, having published my book THE CHRISTMAS CARRIAGE AND OTHER WRITINGS  OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON (still available through Amazon, BARD, and Audio and Braille Literacy Enhancement), and distributing almost 150 posters on which is printed my poem “A Guide Dog’s Prayer to Saint Francis of Assisi” and which features photos of each of my four Leader Dogs. 

                Leader Dogs Keller and Heather were with me during my teaching years.  Zoe, my third Leader Dog, was the bridge because she was at my side for my final two years of teaching at Milwaukee Area Technical College and was also at my side for my earlier years of retirement.  My current Leader Dog, Willow, has only known my retirement life; nevertheless, with our living in a downtown area in a large city, she has a challenging, varied, and rewarding working life as a guide dog.  My British Black Labrador brightens each day of my retired years!

                When I retired a decade ago, no thought was given to any situation like COVID.  On the other hand, when my sister taught her final classes in May of 2020, she saw her very young students only via Zoom.  Although retiring midst COVID presents some different challenges, when I read over the following poem which I wrote less than two years after I retired, I feel fairly much the same way as I did in 2013.  While my perspective on retirement may not have changed much, my age does have a way of adding a candle to the birthday cake each year.  Having been away from the classroom for ten years, I do miss my students and teaching less than I did the first few years on this retirement stage.  Before I pull the curtain up on the second decade of my retirement stage, I hope you will enjoy this poetic glimpse of retirement from March 2, 2013, when my WORDWALK blog was only two months old. 

* * *

Learning to Retire from Teaching

(Touches of Humor Have Been Assigned)

poem 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 my first three guide dogs who have blessed my life.  On March 21, 1990, Keller, a gorgeous golden retriever, became my first guide dog.  Happily, Yellow Labrador Heather, my second Leader Dog, came into my life on April 15, 1998.  On June 6 of 2009, Leader Dog Zoe–my outstanding black Labrador/golden retriever mix–was the guide dog I was following, appreciating, and loving when I wrote this poem.  After Zoe, Leader Dog Willow became an important part of my life on June 7, 2016.  Each of these four gifted

guide dogs continue to teach me the grace of walking on a different path in life.

Best Wishes to all who smile and take a bow on the retirement stage of life!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

August 18, 2021, Wednesday


From → Uncategorized

  1. mfanyo permalink

    Dear Alice,
    Congratulations on your ten years of retirement from teaching! You have certainly completed some impressive projects during that time and, no doubt, have a list of others to pursue in the future!
    Best of luck to you and Willow as you begin the next decade!

  2. Susan McKendry permalink

    Hello, fellow MATC retiree–
    Enjoyed this post and also the poem you wrote in the company of Zoe. The signs of the approaching autumn always remind me of my first year, 2004, when I was not preparing for the fall semester and had more time to spend with my mother, who died in September 2005.

    • Hi, Sue–Thanks so much for your recent phone call and for your comment with your retirement perspective.  I can hardly believe that today is August 23 and that September is so near.

      May you take comfort in the warm and happy memories of your mother, another teacher!

      Best always, Alice and Willow

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