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It is report card day.  I handed out the first report cards that this set of Kindergarten children has ever received.  I made no new discoveries about these children.  It was simply a record of what I had observed as a teacher over the first three months of school.  Nothing I wrote would be shocking news to any parent.  They, of course, know their children far better than me.

So I was a bit surprised when I was called for a phone call 15 minutes after dismissal.  When I walked into the office, I joked that it must me a report card complaint.  The secretary looked at me seriously and said ‘Yes, it is.’  I took a deep breath and answered the call with a sing-song, “Hi.  Martha speaking!”

Blasted.  That’s what I would call it.  This parent blasted me from word one.  She was angry and she was in reaction mode.  I knew that she couldn’t have had time to read the whole paper, but she had been quick to make the call in the heat of her rage.

As it turned out, it was simply a misunderstanding and it was easily corrected with my sunshine-and-smiley-face explanation.  I heard her out, stated my points, let her rant a while longer, restated my points and heard her out again.  By the end, she was eating out of my hand, apologizing for making a big deal out of nothing.  We said good-bye as if we were the best of friends and the event was over.

Except it is not over.  Now I’m pissed.

I spend my life creating fun, enriching activities for these children who I truly love.  I share in their victories and let them know how much I believe in them.  I spend time each day writing and answering parent emails and trying really hard to keep the communication link open between me and the parents.  I spend hours writing these frickin’ reports, agonizing over the wording, trying to come up with the most gentle way to say something difficult.

And yet here is a parent who is so quick to forget all that I have done for her and her child.  It amazes me how quickly she was able to forget the good things that have happened so far this year.  How quickly I went from capable and caring to evil doer in her eyes.  She showed me no respect by going into a rant.  Now I have her flagged as a ‘person of concern’.  I will forever be wary of her.

It takes so long to build up a relationship of trust and caring – yet it can all come to a halt in the course of one phone call.  My promise to myself today is to sleep on a concern for at least a day before I light into someone and place blame.  Some of these bridges cannot be rebuilt.

Earlier this week, my newly retired school principal burst into the school for a quick visit, full of piss and vinegar.  He had been here and there, taken a course on whosiwhatsits and spent hours working on some thingamajig.  His social calendar was full.  He looked years younger than he did in June.  His words-to-the-wise were “Retire as soon as you can manage it.  It is the best thing I’ve ever done!”.

Then in stark contrast, I had a phone call with my dad today.  “Life is pretty dull around here, as usual” was his thought-provoking comment.  Imagine being retired, aged 75, yet merely existing through another day.  I cannot even fathom it.

Which one of these two paths will I take?  Will I even have a choice?

I believe that choice is the difference between these two attitudes.  My principal anticipated his retirement and had an exit plan all laid out.  He knew that on Sept 7, the first official day of retirement, he would be far away in the Maritimes, photographing the Autumn changes and attending a family reunion.  He looked forward to it.  He shared his plans with us as they drew nearer.  And now he is soaking in it, wondering how he ever managed to fit work into his day.

Meanwhile, my dad had no choice in his retirement date.  His health issues forced him to retire ten years earlier than expected.  Retirement came quickly, unexpectedly and he entered it unwillingly.  I don’t think he has ever embraced it or looked at these years of freedom as a gift from a life well-lived.

I will retire on January 3, 2026.  (Hurrah for the teachers’ pension plan!)  I expect that my retirement years will be some of the best in my life.  I already know that initially I will fill my days with outdoor adventures and activities.  I will travel and see places that I couldn’t possibly afford to visit when I was a starving Europe-bound student.  Then, as perhaps age and health begin to limit my activities, I will get involved in the local recreation or seniors centre.  I will learn to play bridge, basket-weave, embroider and sing in the seniors choir (because they have to allow everyone in).  I will bake for the bake sale and volunteer at the auxiliary.  I will be involved.

How about you?  Have you given it any thought?

The Happy Wanderer

My Paths on Strava

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