Musician and Teacher
Well, here I am thinking about retirement. After teaching for 25 years I have put in my papers and I am set to retire on June 30, 2011. I really can’t believe that I am going to retire! It seems like it was just yesterday when I first walked into my own classroom. Where did the years go?
I didn’t always teach. I worked in an oil refinery for over 13 years. Then before that I surveyed and did janitorial and home maintenance work. Many times doing two or three jobs at a time. Also being a musician, I have played many jobs while working on the other jobs. As I sit here typing, I start to think that it seems that every few years I changed jobs. I would not change companies or school districts, but I took on a new job. In the refinery I went from boiler operator, to “gasoline treater”, to steel mechanic, to lab tester. In the school I went from teacher of skilled trades to teacher of special needs to teacher of technology/webmaster/IT. When you add up all those years plus the years I worked doing odd jobs while a teenager that comes to well over 40 years. But it all seems like it was just yesterday. It has all been just a blink of the eye, so it seems!
Through the years I often talked about retiring and at times really thought about it. But that did not last long. In truth, and my wife thinks I nuts when I say this, I really didn’t think that I would make it to retirement. Considering the times that I grew up in, I really didn’t think that I would make it into my forties. Remember, I grew up with THE BOMB, and ‘NAM. I thought that if Russia did not blow us off the face of the earth that I would be shipped over to ‘NAM and be killed in one of those rice paddies. The outlook of our society was not the greatest, at least not in this young man’s eyes. So, I guess, I took on a fatalistic point of view that why should I really get ready for retirement? I will never make it to it. But, here I am looking at it now. I think that the thing that drove that home was when I was checking my bank statement I saw an entry for a deposit from the NJ Pension Board. It was a deposit for zero money but it just hit me that I was near my time. It is my time! But, I really don’t think I feel like it is my time!
So why am I retiring? That is a good question. First off, we have a group of people in this state that have “villainfied” all teachers as well as all public employees. I am looked upon as being someone who is lazy that collects a check for doing nothing. I am also looked upon as being someone who will be drawing a pension that someone else is paying for. Let me set some things straight, I work hard for any money that I get. I am at school at 6:30 in the morning and I work straight through, not stopping until after 3:00. I also come back to school many evenings to work with the students in various activities. As far as the pension goes, I have paid into it since I have been teaching with the understanding that the state would also contribute to it (which they have not over the past 15 plus years). Therefore, the politics of this state is one reason that I feel that it is my time to go. The second thing is the thrust of education of resent years. In my way of thinking we have stopped teaching the students how to learn and now just teach them how to pass the standardize test that they have to take (required by the state and federal government) and get them into colleges. What happened to teaching the student how to learn? Why must everything that the student learns be summarized by numbers from a test? Why do we feel that ALL students must go to college? What about teaching the students things that they can use in retail, or in the crafts? We talk about education being personalized but what we have now is “cookie-cutter-education”! We seem to have this concept that all students learn the same and have the same talents and desires. I am having the feeling more and more that we are failing our students. Therefore I guess that it is best for me to go instead of having it eat me up.
There are some things that I do look forward to in retirement. I do look forward to spending more time with my wife. I look forward to having more time with my granddaughter. I look forward to having more time to do work around the house. I do not look forward to having less money come in (although everyone is telling me that it will be about the same). However, I also see that if I need more money for us to live, I will have time to do extra work to make more money. But, I really don’t look forward to that. I look forward to trying new things and doing things that I really enjoy doing.
So what is the problem with retirement for me? I guess that it is in two parts. The first is that I will miss working with the kids. Everybody complains about the kids! I even complain about the kids! But, complaints are just about a few, the majority of the kids really do want to learn and when you can guide a student into that “ah-ha” moment and see the light that comes on in their eyes it is a look that fills you with renewed passion. There is also seeing that pride in the student when you tell them that he or she did a great job. And, of course, there are those times when the student comes up to you and just says “thanks”. That moment takes away all of the despondency that you have had and lifts your spirit so that it soars higher than any eagle can fly. This is what I will miss the most when I am no longer teacher. After all, isn’t that what teaching is about?
The second part of the problem with retirement is the fear of such a drastic change in my life. I have always gone into great changes in my life with tribulation but, I still just pressed on and things worked out for the most part. But, this is a big change and it not only affects me but also others. I am fearful that we will just not have enough money to pay our bills. And I am fearful that what I am picturing, and what others are picturing for me, just will not be.
So, what am I suppose to do? I guess that I will just keep going on and go forth into retirement looking for the best and just be as positive as possible about it.
Well, how-about coming back and revisiting this in about a year. I will have been retired for about eight months and we will see how we are making out.
To Be Continued!
Up-dated March 1, 2011
James Krauss designer and Webmaster