Working – or not

When I was 12 years old I got a morning paper route. At 15, I was picking tobacco in the summer. I have always worked. Even in high school I worked some evenings, and I always worked in the summers. I worked my way through degrees at UConn and UW.

Work, work, work – until last June, when I retired.

This is one big change. It certainly leads me to think about many things. A teacher neighbor, a couple decades away from retiring, suggested I’d get right back to some kind of work – he said guys just have this thing, to work, provide, and so on. Well, it’s been almost a year, and all I can say about that is, nope – at least not for me, not so far.

Do I feel lucky? Absolutely! Never in a million years (well, until about 2 years ago) did I ever think I’d be able to retire. That was for my parents’ generation, and, for us baby boomers, it was a pipe dream.

So what do I do with all my time? First and foremost,  I rest. Teaching for 31 years was exhausting – mentally and physically. It’s not something you walk away from and just start building a new house or something.

Do I miss teaching? Yes, but only the parts that had to do with kids.

I do not miss the endless meetings, de-skilling sessions (professional development), and pointless hoops to jump through. I do not miss being told how to teach, and what words to use in scripted curricula.

If you sensed just a little bit of anger there, you are right. So much of being a teacher these days is incredibly demeaning. As with the need for physical rest, I need some time to heal from the emotional toll taken on my mind, and I need a break from that unrelenting public attitude of disdain for teachers.

But I can’t just let it go… I spend time every day reading blogs and news stories about the education “reform” movement, and how it is destroying our public education system. I read Diane Ravitch’s blog regularly, as well as dozens of other pieces daily. Daily. A good source for them is NPE News Briefs. Occasionally I’ll add a comment or two, or even Tweet a post, but I rarely write. So many others are writing well on the issues, and I’m not a particularly quick or gifted writer. And you know, I get so worked up and angry about the situation, that it seems all I can crank out is angry, angry stuff. And that’s not me – at least not how I feel, or how I want to be seen by others. I’m a pretty nice, laid back, kind of guy. Sigh (I just caught myself).

But I am volunteering, and I love what I am doing. I lead small groups of elementary school kids on educational tours of Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

The education program at the Market was always my favorite field trip of the year, so now it’s my time to pay the program back. I go in one day a week, usually riding the bus downtown. Each time, I get to know a small group of kids, teach them things about the Market, expose them to sights, sounds, and people that most adults don’t have a chance to experience, and have fun in the amazing Market.

Once I figured out what I was doing (it’s weird to be a rookie again!), I suggested to the program manager the idea of setting up a blog to showcase his program, to let everyone know how unique it is, and so on. He gave me the go ahead, and the blog has recently been “blessed” by Market management organization, known as the PDA. I hope to get other tour leaders involved next year.

You couldn’t pay me to do this. Must not be work.

About Mark Ahlness

I am a retired teacher, with dreams of still making a difference.
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2 Responses to Working – or not

  1. Pingback: Healing | Acrovision

  2. Congrats to you being able to retire from such a long career. Love that you are volunteering with kids still. Says a lot about retired teachers who do that. Obviously in it for the kids! Enjoy being able to breathe.

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