Posts Tagged ‘retirement’

Reflections….

SusanQuilt3I am attending a writing salon a couple of times a month to work more on my craft, as well as new work on book two. Here’s my reflection on the prompt “All in a Day’s Work.”

My days have an interesting new rhythm to them as I pass my fifth year of retirement from teaching. With hubby’s surgery this winter, art was put on hold in favor of surviving each day of recovery. Now, though, every waking hour is filled with planning, creating, discussing, making, ironing, marketing. The hats change by the hour. I will admit, however, I do not miss the multitude of Sundays filled with grading papers and  planning lessons over the 40 years of teaching.

Division of labor is taking a new turn. More of the online work of sales, mailings, and organization is going to hubby so I have time for significant creating and sewing. He is also creating on a more regular basis, as that is something in our partnership that he can do on his own – I get to do the clean-up while he admires the fabulous fabric he has created.

There are a lot of venues I need to handle, from pattern design to new website opportunities to all the sewing and finishing of art pieces. It can get very frustrating at times – at least once a day – as I want to take a break, but then I feel guilty that I’m not dealing with the myriad number of things. Actually I brought this on myself. Since we moved back to Vermont in May last year, we have been searching for marketing opportunities. Despite the time off for medical issues, we have been very successful at creating new opportunities for ourselves, and now we have a new problem – not enough artwork for all the opportunities.

I think the “day’s work” has an additional new meaning, aside from rhythm, as I am even more aware of a fixed income and the need to make funds last four to five weeks, depending on the fluctuating Social Security days. The “second Wednesday” can be anywhere from the 8th to the 14the of the month. This month is a perfect example – today is the 8th…SSI has to go 5 weeks.

Positivity seems to be my key to keeping anxiety attacks at bay. I send positive thoughts to the universe, write my monthly abundance checks, and plug away at the work. I understand art as a driving force, now that I have significant time unencumbered by the demands of the classroom. I create now because I want to, I have to….these pictures arrive in my mind and they need to be born and nurtured. I look at my calendar and smile at the blocks of unstructured time awaiting me and my machine.

What’s interesting is that I still feel guilty about taking time off to relax. When school was in session, I would be too exhausted to do anything for art, except in the summer months. Then it was two weeks to recover, a few weeks on vacation, and by the time I was in creative mode it was three weeks till school started again. I did some of my best work the first summer I didn’t have to work during the vacation, and I often think if I could have continued to create at that pace, I’d be further along in my art-making. It’s hard for me to take time to sit in a chair, enjoy the breezes, and read…or listen to music…or just be quietly by the water.

A friend went to teach in Vienna and at one of the professional development meetings the presenter gave everyone a 100 centimeter strip of paper. Take off the years on the lower end you have been alive. Tear off the years at the other end that represent average life expectancy. What you have remaining are your productive years. She wasn’t happy, as she was the oldest person in the group, and her strip of paper was pretty short. While it seems at times that 40 years of teaching has been forever, at the same time it seems like just yesterday I boarded a plane from Vermont to Maui and my first teaching job. Now I feel like I am just under 20 years to my goal, and I want to be as productive – as guilt-free with no regrets – as I can.

The other piece I’m seeing is that as the years dwindle down and the desire to create gets stronger and more unrelenting, the vision issues become major in my mind – and in reality. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the ‘what-ifs’, regardless of how hard I ry to stay occupied. When honest with myself, this is probably why I started writing again – the technology has improved so much that I will be able to do what I want with fiction without being able to see a keyboard.

I need every day to be productive…and I accept that that can mean I spent several hours enjoying a good book…or putting a computer jigsaw puzzle together…or walking the Charlotte Town Beach with my hubby – after sewing a fiber piece to canvas and adding a hanging system. My day’s work is enjoyable, exciting, and enviable.

Ramblings for the Month……..

Evening Moon

Evening Moon

Lots of thoughts kind of rambling through the head these days, main one is that my novel IS DONE!!! (Insert happy dance!) I’ve set up a page through webnode.com to talk about various items related to the politics within the novel, as well as things I’ve discovered in writing fiction. I’ll post it when I’m ready to reveal it for comments. In the meantime I have my last round of editing to do, and then it’s query letter to literary agents. I rethought the ending at least five times, and then I said start writing and see what happens – let the characters talk to me, like they have been doing the whole time.

Another activity has been planning and packing for our move back east. I need me my four seasons! Since I’m retired, I don’t have to go out in the bad weather! We will need to revise how we shop for food, as in the winter months we need to be prepared for days inside. This has all led me to thinking about places to travel in the winter. We may just hop Amtrak to come west during a cold January. I’ve started surfing, and I stumbled on this site on Costa Rica– a place on my bucket list! One look at this place and I’m ready to pack now! Give me the ocean, water I can admire, some unique things to do, and a great place to hang and I’m there!! Las Ventanas del Mar – the ocean view looks spectacular!

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 11.52.46 AM

The packing for this cross-country move has been interesting. We are downsizing even more from our previous local moves, planning on replacing some furniture when we find a new apartment. I realized my hutch wasn’t important, although I love it – it’s the mementos inside from years of being together. Today we donated tools, stationery, and other odds and ends to Live Theater Workshop, which has provided many years of enjoyable theater experiences. The best one to date has been “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) Revised.” Loads of laughs and great visual gags. All 39 plays in 90 minutes!

All the art stuff – books, supplies, finished pieces – that’s what is really important, and they will be packed about two weeks before the move. I don’t want to look at empty walls and not be near my sewing machine for too long. Which brings me to another thought – Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours. If you are going to be a professional and really great at something, you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice. I am so far from that! But I will say that the past year has definitely improved my free motion quilting and design skills with the amount of time I’ve been spending on my art. My days have settled in to a nice routine, and I no longer worry about keeping track of what I accomplish each year during retirement. Yoga, writing, sewing/quilting, sketching with pen and ink, walks – a very nice schedule!

 

In Retrospect – Year 2 of Retirement

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve been retired now for two years. Last year on the one-year anniversary I took a look at what I accomplished for the year. I was afraid of looking back on retirement and not seeing anything to show for it. So I tracked everything this year. The last four months have been pretty fallow, as I struggled with some personal issues, but I feel like I am finally reclaiming myself. All in all, I had a pretty productive year.

SAQA quilt submitted to major show

SAQA auction quilt submission

continued blogging

Tried out Tophatter, gave it up after some really obnoxious feedback from an a-hole, who actually burned my quilt

Newsletters for 10 out of 12 months

Wrote a dozen blogs for Handmadeology

Remade hubby’s blue quilt

Participated in the free motion quilting challenge through the end of the year

Yoga instruction throughout the year, including pretty regular daily practice

Completed two more table runners for Momma BettyTableRunner4

Completed Stepping Stones table runner

Completed “Clammin’,” a small art quilt up on Etsy

Completed pattern and two samples for the table runner pattern

Sold “DesertScapes”

Machine-quilted the Forest quilt

Machine-quilted two bed-stand table-toppers and one dresser scarf

Worked at stocking and marketing the Etsy store

Took a Quilt University class with Elizabeth Barton

Finished Spring Wall Hanging

Guest post on Craft Gossip

Finished makeover of small Christmas quilt

Pictures in Martha Stewart Weddings, Spring issueMSWeddings

Quilted Ali’s green picture

Participated in three challenges for Art Quilts Around the World

Took two Craftsy classes

Joined Galleribba online gallery

Potentialgallery  representation starting fall 2013 in Tubac

Participated in StashFest again this year for the La Conner Quilt Museum

Submissions for three books, one accepted, the other as an ebook

Green and purple whole cloth quilts completed

Started commission of 7 quilted chakras, finished Root chakra

Completed two bed-stand table toppers and one long dresses scarf

Accepted into the juried Faculty/Staff art show for The Art Institute of Tucson

ArtShowAI

There are probably a couple more, but the mind has been kind of blank. It’s nice to have this list, so I know I accomplished a lot! Now I have to start the new one for year three.

10 Things I WILL Miss About Teaching

While retiring is going to be a joy, there are definitely some things I am going to miss about teaching. So here goes:

1. The Kids. Even the class from H*** this year had its good moments. The kids keep me young, they keep me laughing, and they’ll believe just about anything you tell them. Case in point: Nicole a year ago asking me where zombies go when they die. Despite my trying to get across to her that zombies don’t exist, she kept asking, saying “Hypothetically.” So I finally answered “They go to algebra heaven.” And she was fine with that answer.

2. The challenge of teaching so many different subjects and learning so many new things. Over the years it’s been high school American History, AP US History, psychology, literature and writing, grammar, earth science, basic math, middle school social studies, elementary gifted programs, middle school math, and finally high school math. I’m a walking Jeopardy board.

3. Mathematics, particularly algebra and geometry. After some dismal experiences in high school, I have relished understanding the ins and outs of algebra and geometry, and I will miss the opportunity to continue to improve my explanations of how algebra really works.

4. The Kids. I am in touch through Facebook with so many former students, and I just love watching them grow and have families.

5. Student theater. I did this for 15 years, thanks to one of my first mentors, Sue Ann Loudon. From Carousel to Oliver to Music Man to Peter Pan and numerous small plays in between, I loved every moment, and I have the pictures and tapes to prove it. But that’s a job for someone much younger.

6. Conferences, especially when paid for by the school districts. I loved my time with the art partnership with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. A great time at the ASCD conference both in Baltimore and Anaheim – and if the principal had approved our plan for taking kids to the Getty, so many more would have benefited. To think it all started with the National Association of Gifted and Talented in Portland, and included being in DC the night of – and day after – the 2000 election for the International Dyslexia Conference.

7. The creativity of planning a successful lesson. When it goes right, there’s nothing better.

8. Being “on stage” and having a good time with the kids during lessons. There’s all the voices and chants and little dance moves, the quadratic formula to the tune of Jingle Bells, and all the videos.

9. The “Big Projects.” All the plays, World Peace Day in April 1972, Model UN in 1973, the Shakespeare Festivals with 150 kids, the Learning Lab, and many more.

10. The Kids and making a difference in their lives. It took me a long time to realize that this is what I was meant to do.

10 Things I WILL NOT Miss About Teaching….

I will no doubt spend some time in reflection over these last 40 years in some form of public education. I found an interesting editorial I had written about 8 years ago that I will probably recreate here. Mostly this week it’s been about things I am not going to miss.

1. Short lunch periods. Some of the schools I’ve been in had 20-minute lunch periods, which makes it tough to have any kind of a leisurely lunch, especially when you factor in having to use the bathroom and set up for the next class after lunch. I still eat fast at lunch; it’ll be a hard habit to break!

2. Lack of accountability on all parts. Teachers – there are so many in the profession who shouldn’t be there. I find myself at times taking shortcuts just to survive the daily grind, and I lose sleep over it. Students who do not take responsibility for their work and behavior. Parents who let kids get away with anything they want. Makes me scared for the future….

3. Spending most of Sunday doing lesson plans and marking papers for the coming week. I don’t see myself getting depressed anymore on Sundays, trying to get ready for the week and resenting upwards of 8 hours spent on paperwork and lesson plans.

4. The next “new thing” – everything old is new again….Professional development, for the most part. If I had stayed, I would be taking Essential Elements of Instruction for the third time in my career – doesn’t matter that I can prove I have taken it already, and that I use the information when I plan classes. I am also spared Restorative Practices and Circles……

5. “Teenage drama.” Especially from the girls. Oy, teenage girls and cat fights and gossip. Perhaps not as bad as middle school level, but I have to keep telling myself the frontal lobe is not completely developed…..

6. Sagging pants on the boys. Do you realize just how stupid we think you look? And grabbing your crotch to hold your pants up makes you look even more like an idiot….

7. NCLB – good ole No Child Left Behind, that has managed to remove any joy from learning completely. I can prepare kids to pass tests with the best of them, but that isn’t an education.

8. Bathroom on a bell schedule. I gotta tell ya, bathroom breaks with 90 minute classes? No wonder teachers don’t get all the water they need in a day. If we save it till we get home in the late afternoon, then we’re up several times at night.

9. Unresponsive school districts and wacko state legislatures (yes, Arizona, I’m talking about you…). This is the worst time in my career for teacher-bashing. I’m tired of no support, large class sizes, out-of-date technology, especially when we are evaluated on how we use the technology.

10. Whining students. No more “do we have to?”, “that’s too much work,” “I didn’t do it” and ad nauseum.

Ah, retirement!

On Rethinking Retirement……

Today was the first day of two for professional development on Understanding by Design, or UbD. The staff at the school all has to have this training as part of our three-year plan, and I was resisting this because I’ve read through elements of this on my own, as well as tried to apply some of the “big ideas” to a museum project several years ago. I am here to say today is causing me to seriously rethink retirement – the day was amazing, and I do not say that lightly about professional development.

Understanding by Design is a three-stage program to develop more meaningful curriculum that is effective, engages students, and promotes enduring understanding, as Howard Gardner would say. We spent the day on Stage 1, unwrapping the curriculum in order to plan for the end result. Duh. In 20 years of doing student theater, I always did what I call “backplanning,” but NOT ONCE did I think to apply that skill to my classroom teaching.

As we continued through the day, I kept seeing lights at the end of the tunnel, answering for me ways to fix what I am unhappy with in my algebra classes. I do too much direct instruction, I don’t have the kids do enough inquiry, and they aren’t engaged enough or see algebra as a meaningful course of study. I actually wanted to read through standards and try to cluster some of the performance objectives so the planning  makes more sense. The warm-up we did would make more sense than the (to be honest) drill and kill I usually do for practice (and, really honest, management…). In fact, I have some ideas for small group bell work for next week to extend some of the understanding.

All through the day I was (and still am) very conflicted. I am planning to retire in two and a half more years. I have been dealing with some health issues that may make me retire early. Plus, I realized if I go the full years more I will actually end up hurting my retirement benefits, as there hasn’t been a raise, and nothing is in sight. Two and a half years would cut off one of my higher salary years. So I am looking at numbers.

But then I sit in a workshop and get truly excited about trying some new strategies and ideas for teaching algebra, and I don’t want to leave. Retirement is an ending, as well as a beginning. I started teaching 40 years ago this September, and while it is probably time – age-wise – to go, it feels like “the end.” I don’t think I’m ready for closure, even though I want to seriously expand my art work and licensing. I’m not sure I can “let go” of 33 years of teaching, when I still feel like I have a lot more to offer. I still love this stuff – workshops, class management, curriculum, and all. I miss the teaching teachers that I used to do. I have all these skills and experiences (and endorsements) from all these years, and I’m not sure I can give it up…..

So just when I think I am coming to decisions, something happens to change it all. Darn you, Dr. Larry….now what do I do?

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