It’s the month of May when teachers mark the end of testing, the countdown to the number of days left in the school year, and the retirement parties. Yes, our school district honors the retiree with a commemorative plaque at a party. The administrator recaps the awards earned, the grants acquired, and the years of service to the school district. All of this fanfare, while the retiring teacher stands smiling and choking back the tears, declares the conclusion of a teacher’s career.
Our district invites the former retirees from the district to attend the party. An identifiable group of former teachers gravitates to one section of tables, even though they are not reserved specifically for them. They enjoy the familiarity of each other’s face that is still easily recognizable through the new wrinkles and graying hair. These veterans of education share stories and cackle with laughter at the classroom experiences of days gone by. The Kindergarten teacher relates the time she turned around only to view one student using the liquid hand soap to lather up another student’s hair. After all, her mother was a beautician and she saw her do it all the time. Or the time a parent brought a dog to the parent teacher conference and it growled at the teacher the whole time. The recipe is story plus laugher, repeat until everyone is speechless from laughing with tears streaming down their faces.
Soon other teachers in the room begin to notice. They observe the laugher, camaraderie, and shared joy of being together again. They secretly try to add up the years of combined experience among this group. Thirty-eight, nineteen, twenty-five… One would have to take out a calculator for the total number is too large, but not as large as their influences in so many children’s lives. These observers lean in closer, ask some questions, and make some comments. They begin to share stories from their own classrooms, laugh, and repeat until once again everyone is speechless from laughter with tears streaming down their faces. The commonality is present. They have all experienced those unexpected moments in the classroom.
Yes, the retired teachers have so much to share. Some are still presenters at workshops, volunteers in classrooms, tutors, or even work in museums. While others are content to just know that every day is Saturday for them. They don’t have any plans for the day when the first bell rings. Those teachers still employed by the school district know that someday the fanfare will be for them. They, too, will stand smiling, choking back the tears. Then these teachers will join their predecessors at the “fun table” keeping the circle of laughter flowing at every district retirement party.