It’s been a while since I’ve seen this old purple lunch bag. Yesterday, I dusted it off and headed back to work at my old and beloved stomping grounds, a great school where I spent seventeen years of my working life.
When I retired from teaching in 2015, people asked me if I would come back as a supply teacher. Aside from the fact that retirees were ineligible to work as supply teachers three years ago, my answer was an adamant “NO!” I was done. On to the next chapter.
I’ve loved this new chapter as much as I expected to. I’ve had time to volunteer, to exercise, to travel, to paint a bit, to nap. Last month,, I was able to launch my first published novel–which has been a lifelong dream of mine. I am never bored. In fact, a day isn’t long enough to squeeze in everything I want to do. And yet, even after three years away, I still feel connected to my past as a teacher. I’m still reasonably young. I have all this experience and all these qualifications I spent years working in my off time to get. I started to wonder if maybe, there was still a bit of juice left to squeeze out of the lemon.
And I also thought about the extra income. Pensions don’t fund trips very well. And there are so many places I still want to see and experiences I want to have. A part-time job has a lot of benefits.
I got a text a few months ago from a former colleague that the Board was now accepting retired teachers onto the supply list. There is a serious shortage of supply teachers at the moment, and many jobs “fail to fill,” leaving schools scrambling for coverage for classes without teachers. As much to my surprise as well as everyone else’s, I applied.
The process wasn’t easy. I had to start right at Square One–resume, references, an online test that included high school math, a rather grueling interview process (something I hadn’t experienced since 1989), topped off by orientation–because 31 years of experience and a string of satisfactory performance appraisals wasn’t orientation enough. I jumped through all the hoops (well, maybe in some scenarios, “crawled” would be a better word) and my first day as a supply teacher was yesterday.
There was always this feeling I got when I was working full-time upon returning to school after a summer. One day in and I felt like the summer never happened. Like I had never left. Three years later, it was exactly the same feeling. A few new faces and a couple of new fridges in the staff room, but other than that, it was home.
My first day back was a busy one. I was covering for a Kindergarten Prep teacher, so I was bouncing from classroom to classroom, and in and out off the playground. There were so many kids–kids with no name tags, all these nameless little people swarming around. So hard to make a connection with a child in this circumstance. But it did happen a few times. One tiny child asked me if I would come and see his rocks. He led me out to the coatroom to his cubby. He wormed his little hands in past his backpack until he got to his coat pocket, carefully zipped to ensure the protection of its contents. His unzipped it and reached his little hand in. When he opened his palm, it was full of tiny rocks he’d carefully gathered during his outdoor time. Mixed in with the stones was a wee plastic stegosaurus. Something about that little hand filled with treasures (and the fact that he wanted to share them with me) caught at my heart.
In another classroom of older students, I was reading one of my favourite books, a story by Chris Van Allsburg (of “Polar Express” and “Jumanji” fame) called “”The Widow’s Broom.” We talked a bit about the meaning of the word “widow” before I began the read-aloud. Half-way through the story, I felt a hand on my knee. A little guy had left his spot on the floor and came up to me. Normally, I would have asked him to go and sit back down, but something in his eyes stopped me. He whispered to me, “My mommy is a widow.” I was rendered speechless with this unexpected revelation (most teachers can pretty much count on the unexpected from children during the process of any normal day) when he smiled and added, “I have a stepdad now, and he’s my new daddy.”
After one day back at school, I have a renewed vision for what is inspiring me (aside from a pay check) to take a step back towards teaching. It’s not a big step. I can have fifty days a year without it impacting my pension, so I figure, a day a week. Kids are incredible little humans. I love retirement, but I have missed these mini humans and their unique and often complicated perceptions of living life on Earth. I’m excited to have a measure of this blessing back in my life and I look forward to the little doses of learning the kids will inevitably offer to me. My days are full, but the heart always has room for more!
If you would like to read more by me, I hope you will check out my book Corners now available to order in print and as an eBook!