It is August, and for 59 years, it has meant that I returned to school in one capacity or the other. The beginning of a new year was always filled with excitement. I can never remember ‘dreading’ or lacking enthusiasm for the beginning of a new year. When I hear teachers and administrators say, “OH, NO! Not another school year,” I cannot identify with those sentiments or comments. As I look back over my career in education, I ask myself what ingredients motivated me and provided a spark of enthusiasm.
First, I was always excited about learning something new. I attended conferences literally all over the world, participating in professional learning experiences. I wanted to learn and try something new. I find the same to be true in my retirement. I am not a couch potato. I am ready to go! You have to be committed to life as a participant, or you will hit a rut and not be able to get out of it. To reach a port, we must sail, sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail, not drift or lie at anchor.
Secondly, Seek out something new. In retirement, I have some of the same battles I had in my professional life. Fighting fatigue is at the top of the list. How well I remember the fatigue that came over me in the classroom and as an administrator. “Not another meeting,” “I’m just tired.” These are symptoms of mental fatigue. You must work through it in the classroom, at home, or wherever you may be. The scene plays out, for me, almost every morning now. I have decided no matter how hard my night has been or how bad I feel, I’m ready to go. I am determined to hit the road running with “gusto.” Remember in those earlier years when you were constantly going someplace new or trying something new? Now is the time. There is always something new you can learn. Do not become addicted to television. Turn it off. Seek out something new.
Thirdly, find your tribe. There was always one person who could ‘pick me up,’ the person who could pick me up professionally, or, in my case, who saw the bright side of things. It is that person “who listens’, even after all these years. Surround yourself with positive people. Stay away from negative people. This is especially true for those of us who are in the winter of our lives. Find your tribe.
Have coffee with a mentor or a person of kindred spirit. Don’t isolate yourself. Make a point, at least once a week, to do this. In the classroom or in your retirement years, set aside time to go out together with a friend or have a date with your spouse. “Just go for a cup of coffee.’
Resist isolation. I have seen teachers who stayed in their classrooms and were never seen with other teachers or colleagues. The same is true with couples in the senior years of their lives. Resist isolation. Reach out to people you trust. Invite them for a “Friday morning time together.” This is especially true if you feel you are losing that spark. A Friday morning ‘get-together’ is a good start. Resist isolation.
Never let your flame burn out. This applies to all those teachers and school personnel who are starting a new year and to all those retired individuals who are at home. It is easy to get bogged down. To the teacher, beginning a new school year, to the retiree, beginning that first year of retirement, you will be challenged in every way possible. It is in the struggle that you will find joy. Never let your flame burn out.