Yes, the “F” word for teaching: FUN! A couple of days ago I signed a contract to teach high school English at St. Edmund Catholic School this fall. That will be my post-retirement fling. And yes, I do mean fling.
As this retirement plan has been unfolding, I have known for months that I would not stop working. I wanted to find another job, a next-phase for my career. My criteria for a new position were three-fold: Less stress, fewer work hours, and equal to/greater than income. The opportunity that materialized meets and exceeds all three criteria—-It’s PERFECT.
The euphoria and excitement that settled over me for the next couple of days after signing the contract produced an epiphany. I remarked to Sarah yesterday that I had just realized that I haven’t had happy thoughts about going to work for more than ten years. Week after week, month after month, year after year for all that time—-a grind, tedium, obligation, years endured but not enjoyed.
What does that sad obervation tell me about my work these past years in higher education administration? It tells me that it’s time to retire! The joy in my present work died several budget-cuts and GRAD Act failures ago. Of course, I never stopped doing the work all these years, but I can’t recall a day in the past ten years when I woke up excited about going to the office. In fact, my waking on many of those days was met with gut-souring dread.
So teaching, just plain old teaching, seems to be the God-given answer. After meeting with the principal and some co-workers, and receiving the most warm and enthusiastic welcome and reception from the St. Edmund community these past few days, I’m elated at this return to the purity and simplicity of my vocational calling—-to teach, simply teach, and have fun doing it.
I should have known: The past five or six years that I’ve taught a MWF 11:00-11:50 composition class across the hall from my office has born witness. Even though I was teaching as an added duty with no extra compensation, the only three hours of the work week that I could count on being fun, rewarding, or otherwise happy, were those 3 hours of escape from the office, spent before an audience of students. The rest of the work week in and around the office was work—-something I did because it was my job, what I had to do to make a living.
So now with the end of my present job in sight 7 weeks from now, followed shortly thereafter by the happy beginning of the next phase, I echo the words of the Negro spiritual that Dr. King quoted in his famous speech: “Free at last, free at last! Praise God Almighty, I’m free at last!”