I think the year was 1960 when I read "War & Peace" by Leo Tolstoy. Around 40 pages in he talks about his older neighbors who retire and six months later they die.
In the 70's it seemed people were saying, "Don't work too hard, take it easy." I always liked to work hard. I never liked that language. And then people were counting the years, months and sometimes days until they could retire. That was beyond my understanding.
When my Uncle Floyd turned 80 he said....about the time you get things figured out you discover you are too old to do much about it. I also remember Porter Aiken who taught in South Kitsap. He had been an amazing sixth grade teacher. Most people don't know he was a minor poet who graduated Yale and regularly met with a small group of aspiring writers that included Archibald Mcleish. Anyway, when I saw him he was a substitute teacher. The kids had no understanding of his gifts or the poetry he had published. They just saw class as a study hall.
When people asked when I might retire as I entered my seventh decade my response was always that I didn't know but when the time came, I would know.
Covid could have been a great opportunity to expand our understanding of how kids learn and what strategies might be successful with different kids. However, it turns out that most teachers were facing something new and retreated to what they had been taught and didn't know how to apply what they knew about kids to transfer it to online learning.
Talking to a computer screen is not very engaging for kids and extremely difficult for teachers. I actually missed the early start of school two years ago because I had sustained a fall and broke 3 ribs. So my year started in November. Fortunately I was teamed with an excellent artist and computer expert who worked tirelessly to build and maintain connection with her kids. For me it was an uphill climb for awhile. But as we were adjusting....we were losing some kids and it was really difficult.
Last year was mixed. I saw teachers who totally bailed on kids, I saw kids who gamed all night and couldn't sit through a class. I saw the type of short tempers we all saw when we drove our highways. It was a tough time, a tough year.
Fortunately I got to create a yearbook when we had few photos compared to ten years ago. I got to be very busy up to the end. And I got to either assist or witness kids making it who two years ago you might conclude they had no chance. I also saw a lot of kids just give up. That was hard.
So I never counted the days, I just knew it was time to get off the bus and turn the system over to others.
I have a house to rebuild, I have my health, I have a wonderful family and a new garage with lots of tools to take on anything.
Some of my freshly retired friends really miss it. I see it more as a closed chapter. I am re-designing our remodel, I am learning the new energy code. I am learning to work with clones of expensive software I had when teaching architecture. I sometimes ache in places, but each day is fresh. Each day has challenges and I hope to have the time to work more on the website here to document our progress.
John Alfred Riebli