I am in my late 60’s and have spent a life time as a teacher. When young I babysat/nannied and it was my job to engage a group of 4 children in activities that helped them learn. Over time I taught swimming in high school and college, I worked in remedial reading clinics and then in preschools and daycares. Finally I was teaching in public schools for a good 40 years. As I said a life time of teaching.
So why on Friday night when a good friend ask me why I did not become a Master Gardener and help teach young children about plants did I internally bristle?
My mind was racing on why I did not want to do that. I think I listened politely. What she said was everything I have held dear all this years. She shared a lesson where students are assigned a small area to observe and count plants and/or insects. She had watch this lesson and was so excited. Her enthusiasm was wonderful. I nodded my head while I remembered when I did that same lesson and how I added another part to it with drawing. I remembered doing that lesson with teachers on a small island when we were teaching botany and observational drawing (science and art – you can’t get any better). All of this I love and loved teaching. So why now did I feel like running the other way?
I mumbled something about turning in a new direction now that I was retired. However, we were sitting in my living room full of plants pulled in off the deck for fear of frost and indoor plants I had been growing for some 40 years. I talked about teaching my nieces and my daughter about gardening and starting plants from seed. It did not look like I was going in a new direction.
What the H— was going on with me?
Very late that same night – well, actual in the wee hours of the morning I found myself still wrestling with this question. I felt selfish for not setting myself up to continue teaching. I had always thought and wanted to teach about botany, plants and wild things to young students. I was always frustrated in the classroom when I could not spend enough time outside with students. I know they need this experience and now I have the time to do this. I know of so many places I could volunteer and do this kind of teaching. So why don’t I?
It is several days later and I don’t have a clear answer for this question. Maybe in the future I will decided to teach again but I know for now I am not interested. I have moved into a time where I want to be the learner again.
This learning time however looks different/ feels different. It is about learning on my own. It is about deep reading and sorting out skills that I have a beginning knowledge of but want to go deeper. This learning is about taking a new skill – drawing – and moving it from beginner to more experienced. I have always leaned towards being extroverted but now I seem to need a lot more quiet and time alone.
I suppose some of this need for quiet could be an emotional response to my daughters new baby coming plus her cancer all at the same time but I think it is bigger than that.
With age we change. Our interests change, our abilities change. Sometimes we find we can no longer do the things we did before and at times we find new skills we did not know we had. I am finding how I show up in the world is changing. People round me see me as teacher. I am working to be someone a bit different now. I can’t give it a name just yet but I know I am evolving into a new space. I feel so much better now that I see that I am just making steps in a new direction not running from an old skill as educator. Change is a good thing!
I am in my mod 50’s and now loathe going out at night. I was never much of a socializer, but evenings and weekends have become sacred time for me.
It is amazing how when you work at a job for 40 years that when you retire you are still defined by that job. Although we might still want to be there for students helping them in ways we can retirement is the time for us to expand our own world – learn new things – do what brings joy into our lives. Maybe we could still go back and teach but this is the time when we need to put ourselves first.
It makes sense that you’re ready for different kinds of challenges and experiences than you’ve had for the past 40 years. It was interesting to read about your process in trying to figure out your feelings.
I too am in my later 60s and taught for over 35 years. I had thought once I retired that I would teach art to kids., But it didn’t happen. I have struggled with what path I want to take. Right now it is more as caregiver to my husband, some writing and art and lots of reading. Journaling as well. Loved your slice – it really struck a deep chord.