Slice of life: What I’ll miss, what I won’t



Question: “What are you going to do, now that you’ll have so much time?”

Answer: Plenty. Husbands frequently refer to their “honey-do” list and believe me, I’ve got a huge one.

To be fair, the list is not solely of my helpmate’s making. Many of the things on the list are “wanna-dos” or “shoulda-done-it-right-the-first-time-dos” or “I-can’t-believe-I’ve-lived-long-enough-to-have-to-do-this-again-dos”.

Thinking about the list again, I wonder if I will live long enough to finish it.

There are tons of things that men want to do around the house, but truthfully, at the end of a busy work week, the matching of time with opportunity, motivation and resources occurs about as frequently as a solar eclipse.

As you might have surmised, at the end of this school year, I will officially be retired from teaching. I had been warned not to let a lot of people know. I’ve heard “Watch out! Everyone will want a piece of you!” Or, “You’ll be busier than when you were working!”

What I could have done is what I heard recently a former New York City police officer did. Seems this particularly foresighted individual put in his 20 or 30 years as a detective, going off every morning and happily returning home alive every night. Then he retired. Here’s the fun part — he didn’t tell his wife for six months. He went off every morning and came home every night as per usual, but spent the hours in between golfing, sailing, going to the racetrack and other sporting events, basically enjoying a half year of retired bliss before attacking what I’m sure was a list similar to my own.

Now, even if I was capable of thinking up such a scheme, I never would have ever been able to pull it off. I like surprises as well as the next guy, but I can’t even pull off a surprise party without blowing it. Well, that’s not exactly true, as I’ve had my moments, but six months of retirement?

I prefer to look at it as not necessarily retiring from something, but rather to something, or somethings, as the case may be.

Teaching is really my second, or third, career. My first one was as a professional cook, and then chef. Sort of mixed in there is carpentry, which I learned by being poor and having no cooking work in the winter and having a young family on Shelter Island. I can also add a dash of music, which like professional cooking, is an incurable disease. My wife has also been afflicted with many of these same ailments. I’m afraid she might have caught them from me, except for the music thing, which she developed all on her own, and very well I might add.

Will I miss teaching?

Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know.

For those who do not know, I am not a regular high school teacher. I am a vocational educator who is responsible for infecting unsuspecting youths with a desire to work 12-hour days in intense heat under even more intense pressure in commercial kitchens, where the wages are meager, the benefits few and retirement non-existent.

Some of them love it. Some of them don’t. I had a student who came to me after the holiday weekend and said his stint at a particularly busy restaurant was “awesome.” He just loved it.

He’s done, had it, kaput, finished. Ten years from now I will run into him and he’ll point a finger at me, screaming, “You did this to me!”

I have other students who are already working too hard, because they need money for college, which is very quickly becoming out of reach for many, many graduating seniors. Some of them have already decided that the food service profession is just too hard. For many, it is.

I will miss seeing the light go on when a student comes to the realization that there is almost nothing as satisfying as watching someone lovingly consume that into which you have poured all your creative juices.

I will miss the camaraderie of the teaching community, knowing that collectively we are just about trying to make a positive difference. Like a company of soldiers, we support each other when the going gets tough, and revel in our victories.

I will not miss the increasing difficulty of trying to provide a valid education while under assault from bean counters and politicians. Teachers spend almost as much time off the clock as on, trying to satisfy an ever more arduous gauntlet of standards and one-size-fits-all curricula.

I will not miss trying to re-teach students how to do basic math or how to tell time with an analog clock, because the powers that be have been trying to turn them into rocket scientists for the past four years. I mourn the death of cursive writing and proper sentence construction. I think that cellphones have made society in general and students in particular much less “social” and I decry their permitted use in schools.

I will miss the graduation ceremonies, knowing that I have had a small part in helping some students get scholarships, credits or grants to help them achieve their dreams.

I will miss sunrises on the ferry, but I will not miss commuting one bit.

By the grace of Jesus Christ, all that I have become I still am and will be. You can’t take cooking out of the cook, or teaching out of the teacher or music out of the musician.

It’s in there.

I’ll just be sharing it differently.