Starting the Next Chapter

August 29, 2022 § 23 Comments

By Meg McGovern

In my sixty-one years of life, most have revolved around a school calendar. Unlike people in the business world whose fiscal year is January to December, a student-who-has-become-a-teacher’s new year begins at the end of August. 

When the school year culminates in June, teachers are exhausted and have a lengthy to-do list for summer vacation; clean the basement, organize pictures, shred old receipts and bank statements, get the carpets cleaned, tend to the gardens, schedule physical and dental appointments for all family members including the dog. The list goes on. For me, a buzz of new energy kicks in that first week of break, and I begin tackling my list. Summer gives me the luxury of swimming laps in the morning, having coffee with friends or playing pickle ball, spending time writing, and then getting to the list. By the second week of summer vacation, fatigue from the school year creates a fog so dense I can’t see straight. The list becomes less important. Instead, a book and a chaise lounge entice me to the porch. There’s always tomorrow, I tell myself. When my husband, Brian, gets home from work, he pops his head out the porch door and says happily, “My summer wife has landed.”

Brian and I spend July visiting our sons, other family members, and friends, or exploring a new destination. This year was no different, except for when the calendar went from July to August. I sat on my beach chair overlooking Lake Champlain, coffee in hand, and Gia—our yellow lab—at my feet. The early morning water was smooth like glass. The Vermont mountains, in various hues of greens and blues, rose above the lake. Sailboats looked like toys in the distance. With no work worries, I felt at ease and immersed myself into the quietness. August has always signaled the time to wrap up my to-do list until next summer and get my mind back to teaching. August, when the back-to-school commercials begin, the month of perpetual Sundays, has always given me a mix of excitement and agita. 

The excitement is for a fresh start. Teachers, unlike most professionals, begin each new year with a clean slate, a new roster of students, new supplies of paper, notebooks, sharp pencils, highlighters that work, glue sticks, and a sparkling, uncluttered classroom. I redo the bulletin board backgrounds, set up a writer’s workshop center with filled staplers, sharp pencils in a container for borrowing, and lined paper. On my desk are empty baskets for the piles that will soon build up, a new calendar, and a gradebook. The first few days of school are spent catching up with colleagues, getting to know students, remembering 115 new names, setting up rules and expectations, and creating a positive learning environment. The agita is for the knowing, the knowing that after the honeymoon weeks, the hard work begins, and it is all consuming for the next ten months. 

I officially retired from teaching Language Arts in the public schools on June 30th of this year. July 1st began a new journey which comes with mixed emotions. I will miss those beautiful moments when a student writes from their heart about his dog that died and cries the tears that needed to be shed, when a student tells me I am her trusted adult because I listen, when a parent thanks me for having faith in their child when no one else does. Other days when I can sit at my desk and write for five hours at a time working on my memoir, I know this was the right decision. Some question if I will be bored—a word I dislike by the way. When a parent would suggest their child was bored in school, I’d suggest reading a classic, writing a story from a different angle, going beyond what is being expected from the teacher. So, when people ask me if I will be bored, I say, “Heck no. There are not enough years left in my life to read every book and write every story and accomplish everything I still want to do.” 

When school starts on August 31st, I will head to Staples and buy myself a few composition notebooks and fine tip pens for my own writing. I will embrace this next chapter, open to its path, wherever it may lead.
__

Meg McGovern is an author, educator, and speaker. She is the author of We’re Good, The Power of Faith, Hope & Determination. Meg recently retired from teaching middle school Language Arts. She is an Assistant Editor for Brevity and has written several essays for their blog. Meg earned an MFA in Nonfiction Writing from Fairfield University in Connecticut and is currently working on a memoir. She and her husband live in Trumbull, Connecticut with their yellow Labrador, Gia. Together they enjoy skiing and hiking with their two adult sons.

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§ 23 Responses to Starting the Next Chapter

  • youngv2015 says:

    Happy new adventures. I was a teacher for years, and I can relate to your experiences.

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on retiring from teacher after many years in the classroom. I too am hoping that this will be my last year teaching high school French–I long for full days when I can write and edit, and not worry about grading and preparing lessons. Though, of course, I’ll miss the hustle and bustle of life at a school. Good luck with this new phase of your life.

    • wearegoodweb says:

      Thank you. I will miss the hustle and bustle, but I’m looking forward to setting a slower pace with a focus on writing, exercise, and family. You will know when it’s your time.

  • Morgan Baker says:

    Thank you for this. I teach (college) as well. And this time of year is always bittersweet. I’m excited by that blank slate and what lies ahead, and sad to see my own work slide to the background. I love summer – reading, resting, writing, seeing family and friends. I’m 64. I wonder how many more years I have. Congratulations and enjoy this YOU TIME.

    • wearegoodweb says:

      Enjoy the blank slate and the new school year. Remember to take time for yourself so you can keep reading and writing. When I was teaching, I’d get up and write in my journal while the coffee was brewing. It wasn’t much but it was better than nothing.

      • Morgan Baker says:

        Great advice. I have learned this year that carving out time for me – whether reading, napping, exercising, or writing, is critical to my well-being.

  • dkzody says:

    Welcome to the world of the retired–it is wonderful. I’ve been “living” here for 12 years now, and although I still buy an academic calendar each year for my volunteer activities, my time is more relaxed. You will LOVE it.

  • nagneberg48 says:

    This is your “Preferment” time. Be gentle with yourself and ease into this next chapter.

  • wearegoodweb says:

    I love the idea of “Preferment” time. That would make a great essay topic. I’m also calling the 60’s my glory years when I can do the things I’ve wanted to do but haven’t had time.

  • NYOCW says:

    Happy retirement! Or, “happy graduation,” as my friend says.

  • bone&silver says:

    What a wonderful new chapter! Thank you for sharing your experience as a teacher, and this new threshold… I am semi-retired, and I am NEVER bored- I do have a big garden to keep me amused- my dear old Dad used to say “only boring people get bored”. Enjoy stretching new wings of creativity and wellbeing, you so deserve it 🙂 G in Australia

    • dkzody says:

      Your dad and I must come from the same “stock.” I say the same thing and my granddaughter finds it hilarious. She will often say she’s bored just to hear that response. Then she rolls her 13-year-old eyes!

  • wearegoodweb says:

    I love your dad’s response to being bored. Yes, I will continue to seek creativity and well being. Thanks for sharing.

  • lgrizzo says:

    Congratulations! I retired from teaching language arts two years ago. I haven’t been bored one day yet. Enjoy your new chapter filling those empty composition books!

  • ushikak says:

    An evocative piece on a teacher’s work cycle!
    All best for your next chapter in life!!
    One should never write ‘Finis’ on one’s phases of life! Revel in the newness of the next phase! 🌹👏

  • As a semi-retired music and art teacher who substitute teaches, I can verify there aren’t enough hours to write and do your other favorite occupations—mine is sewing!

  • Laura Heyder says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. As always beautifully written and I can relate to everything you said. Except of course for retirement although it is fast approaching. Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  • Congratulations on your new beginning!

  • Enjoy every second. You’re right, there’s not enough time to be bored. I love that your husband is happy to see you in the hammock!

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