As of next Wednesday, I am officially retired from The Palmdale Aerospace Academy, where I taught English for nine years.
That’s the official end of the contract, but our last day of classes was June 4.
By the time you read this I will be on my way across the country for an extended visit to my summer home on Lake Ontario in Upstate New York.
My original plan was to teach for 10 years, but since the COVID-dominated 2020-21 was, like dog years, the equivalent to about seven years of frustration and stress, I decided nine was enough.
Teaching was at once the most rewarding and the most difficult job I’ve had. This from someone who picked strawberries and picked apples as a teenager (difficult) and writes stories in the newspaper (rewarding).
I started working on my credential when I was 51 and started teaching at 53. Mid- or late-career teachers bring life experience with them into the classroom, and that’s no small thing.
If you are looking for a new career, our society needs good teachers.
This is my second “retirement” with quotation marks because I will not be idle. In French, the verb “retirer” means to withdraw or pull back.
I don’t plan to withdraw, not completely anyway. I won’t be teaching full-time, but after a break I may teach a class or two at the community college level.
And I plan to keep writing.
My first “retirement” was from full-time journalism in 2012. That meant continuing to write for the newspaper, teaching full-time, going through the required beginning teacher training program and working on a master’s in education.
I like to stay busy.
People ask me what I will miss about teaching at TPAA, and the first thing that comes to mind is, “My kids!”
It is common for us not so young folks to complain about “these kids today” but I think they’re terrific. It is definitely a different world than when I was in school, but kids are still kids.
They can be exasperating at times, of course. But if you treat them with respect — and firmness — they respond with respect and they want to do well in class.
They like routines (and so do I). I always rang my $29.95 Walmart gong to begin class, and before going over the daily plans, I would always say, “We have a lot of work to do today and not much time to do it.”
One year the co-valedictorians opened their graduation speech with that quote, and another year the class voted to use it on their graduation announcements.
I got that saying from the late Big Joe Blanchard, the night foreman at Comstock Foods, where I worked summers during college. I think Big Joe would have gotten a kick out of knowing it ended up on graduation announcements in California four decades later.
There is a lot of grading in 11th grade English, particularly Advanced Placement, where the students wrote an essay per week.
That meant spending much of Saturday and Sunday at coffee places (pre-COVID), and week by week seeing the improvements. Difficult, rewarding.
I will miss classroom discussions. We debated issues, and I loved how they listened to opposing views. Things never got nasty like on cable news channels.
I will miss their humor and their kindness.
I will miss my fellow teachers and school staff and administrators. The meetings and the annual mandatory trainings, I will not miss.
We’ll see what the next chapter brings. Whatever it is, it will take a lot to be as difficult or as rewarding as teaching 11th graders.
William P. Warford’s column appears every Friday and Sunday.