School bells are about to ring—but not for me. I retired from teaching almost five years ago. Still, I couldn’t resist buying one of these only-a-quarter composition books at Walmart.
I miss buying school supplies, but I can’t say I miss teaching. I just sent in a column (to appear in the Telegram’s Sunday August 26 edition) where I talk about why. I was exhausted by years of grading essays. Even more than the paperwork, though, was the classroom experience.
When I first started at the community college back in the dark ages of the early 1980s, nobody had a cell phone. When I retired in 2013, everybody did. First I went through semesters of phones ringing in class. Then the problem became texting, which was even worse. Some students seemed positively addicted to their phones.
I felt I had to be more and more entertaining to capture the students’ attention. I needed to use technology myself, not one of my strong points. I was born in the days of typewriters and landlines.
I taught a lot of wonderful students over the years, people who finished their degrees and went on to become productive citizens. Nurses and police officers, early childhood workers and bank employees. I sometimes bump into former students around town. They smile and call me by name although, to tell the truth, I’ve usually forgotten theirs. So many students, so many years.
But I had some lazy students too. Students who would stroll into class late or not come at all. Students who wouldn’t turn in assignments on time and then ask me to accept late work at the end of the semester so they could pass.
Usually these were younger students, kids who’d just graduated high school and were at the community college because they didn’t know what else to do with their lives. Older students were more serious about their education. They’d already been in the job market and seen the need for a degree to advance or enter a more lucrative line of work.
Teaching English is hard work if you do it right. I was glad when I turned 60 and could collect my retirement—and my clock.