Thursday, June 16, 2011

School's Out

Oh, Alice.  I can't say it any better myself, so I'll just borrow from you.  School's out for summer.  School's out forever!  Out for summer, out till fall.  We might not go back at all!

And I won't.  Go back ever, that is.  2011 is the year that Nance Finally Gets Out.  With my thirty years in, I'm retiring.  Or, retired, that is.  After doing the math, I can finish out my Illustrious Career by serving a little extra time (14 days) in July, thanks to the Nice People at HR. 

I have to say that I'm very comfortable with my decision for lots of reasons.  Thirty years is a long time to be in such a demanding, giving, calisthenic career.  I am confident that I am leaving while I'm still at the top of my game.  I had a good year with some terrific kids.  And I was fortunate to spend the vast majority of my teaching career at one school district, and one which afforded me an incredible amount of academic and professional freedom with colleagues whom I respected and had a good time with.

The only regret I leave with is that I had to mislead my students.  My decision to retire, once made, was a deeply personal and private one, and they did not know that this was my last year.  No one did. Many of them made plans to check in with me next year, either to be an aide for me or to contribute to the literary magazine for which I am the faculty adviser.  So many inquired about taking my creative writing class, knowing it was their only chance to have me again as a teacher.  I feel bad that I couldn't be entirely honest with them without making my personal life part of the public domain. 

Now, I will take some time to breathe.  I'm not sure what I'll do with all this English in my head.  Who will I share color symbolism and diction clues with in The Great Gatsby?  Who wants to talk about the Freudian elements in The Catcher in the Rye?  Anyone up for a discussion on the dynamic hero in Miller's The Crucible?  And whenever there's an impromptu forum on Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman, please let me know.  I'm all over that.  If only I could just Teach and do nothing else of it all.  That was always my most profound Joy.

In the meantime, allow me to leave you with this most apt conclusion, brought to you by a junior student of my dear friend and colleague Melanie.  I quote it verbatim:

In this novel The Great Gatsby, things got crazy but in the end there was an outcome and everyone was okay.  The End!


  1. First, you'll wonder how you ever got anything done before as you slash your to do list to a manageable size, travel!

    After a year or so, find a niche volunteering, maybe teach for free at a senior center or elementary school, a library perhaps. ENJOY! (Don't get talked into being on Boards of Directors however)

    Go see some plays in NYC.

  2. I can see it now.Autumn 2011....

    School reopens and Nance is driving by the open windows of the English Department.

    She can hear the students pronouncing fricatives or trying to make some sense out of "The Love Song Of J.Alfred Prufrock"

    Then she hears other,and more disturbing,sounds..

    The Sirens of Advanced Placement English are calling to her."NAAAANCE,come back..NAAAAANCE,you are needed.."

    But, the Sirens are calling in vain, for Nance has prepared herself for this eventuality.

    Yes, Like Odysseus, she has lashed herself to the steering wheel of her Prius and the Sirens are powerless to entice her into the school.

    She merrily continues on her way to the Wine Shoppe and never looks back!

  3. Congratulations, and best wishes! You might investigate opportunities to adjunct at an area college. You won't make any money to speak of, but you might find a way to continue the conversation.

  4. Wow. I congratulate you on your new phase of life, and I think you expressed the positives and negatives of teaching perfectly! Love your blog!

  5. So. MD.12:01 PM

    Congrats on your retirement.
    If you are moving, please consider that there a 3 houses for sale on my street and a new inside the Beltway Career is possible?

  6. Anonymous1:02 PM

    Good for you! What a surprise that you got out before me. You made the right decision.

  7. This makes me so sad for the students because I have no idea who's going to teach them awesome creative writing skills!! As a former student of yours, I just wanted to say thank you for all of the wonderful tools that you taught me both in the english classroom and outside of it. Everyone I've ever talked to that had you as a teacher (including a student who just finished taking your creative writing class) has always had the best things to say about you as a teacher, and I'm sure it will be a nightmare trying to find someone to take your place (as if anyone could).

    Time for your own leisurely reading now, I suppose. =)

  8. Courtney S--Thank you so much for such glowing words. You will remain one of my stars, whether you had said such wonderful things or not. We had such a tremendous class that year in CW. I still remember your Marie Antoinette poem vividly. So glad you hang out here and stay with me this way, too.

    SoMdPrincess--Plenty of room in the Retirement Pool. I don't know why so many people wait so long. I want to be able to enjoy some life before I die! (Although I hope that's not anytime soon....)

    SoMD.--Yikes. Three on your street? Is this a case of "It's not you it's me?" LOL And I'm not sure the Beltway is ready for either Rick or me.

    Rose--thank you. I love to be loved! I hope you continue to hang around the Dept. even though the School Stories will be over. (Though I have saved a few.)

    Carolina Linthead--No interest in teaching anymore. Been there, done that. Especially the grading papers part. I would love to just talk about things I love to like-minded people. Period. Like a Literary Oprah. But no guests. Because THEY WOULD WANT TO TALK, TOO. AND I'M NOT DOWN WITH THAT. hee hee.

    Nancy--Parts of that are right, like the wine part. And the me driving past part. But I doubt I'll feel the pull of wanting to go back, I don't teach AP, and Rick drives the Prius. But thank you ever so much for mentioning my most favourite poem ever in the whole world. *second fave: any guesses?*

    Sillyak--Rick bought me a new GPS for a retirement present.

  9. I think your second favorite poem might be "Annabel Lee"

  10. Nancy--...and we have a winner! Wow. You are That Good. Poe's haunting poem "Annabel Lee" is my second favourite poem. I'm off to go and read it again--although I have it mostly memorized.

  11. Mikey G.8:44 PM

    Congrats! I've been waiting for this post. It must feel fantastic. I know that I'm super excited to have my first summer off in three years, and it's only a two month break. Any plans (other than visiting me, of course)? You should plan on coming out here sometime next winter. It's never terribly warm here, but it'll be warm by comparison during the winter.

    I'm serious, you know. Now that you actually have free time, I will be bugging you about a visit.

  12. In this novel, The Department of Nance, things got crazy, but in the end there was an outcome and then there was retirement, and everyone was.... well, you'll just have to tell us. Because I see this as a glorious beginning. For starters, you could now begin writing "Memoirs of a High School English Teacher": It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of grading papers until your eyes bled out the color of your pen...

    P.S. I fully understand why you did what you did, but my heart aches for those students who thought you would be guiding them through the best and the worst of times.

  13. Congratulations, Mom. You will definitely be miss around The Rock. I knew you were a good teacher but I never realized the amount of respect that your colleagues had for you until I went to school there. That, to me, is the true measure of someone's legacy. The way that their dedication to and performace of their profession is and was viewed by their peers, who are, most often time, the harshest judges of all. In that respect, kudos on a long and excellent career. Love you.


  14. Anonymous8:56 AM

    Oh I'll get there...after I finally get the troll out of my basement and into a place of her own. With the economy, I'm not holding my breath. SoMdPrincess

  15. Ortizzle--are you trying to make me feel guilty? (-ier?) sigh. I feel good about my decision and my career. And given Ohio's (and the nation's!) overall climate regarding education and unions right now, it was time to make this move. I know I'll miss The Good Things--terribly, at times--and I also know that I will always be a Teacher of English in my heart. And, thank you for the PS. I will miss creative writing the most of all.

    Mikey--I know you've been waiting for This Moment. You're one of my former students who turned into a good friend. I am all about coming to see you in Cali. Let's start planning!

  16. JPD--Oh, thank you! And thanks for being my aide for years, for driving me to school the many months my shoulders put me out of commission, and for sitting at the dinner table listening to twenty-something years of School Talk. Oh, and for being editor and contributor to the literary mag,too. (erm,nepotism, yes, but talent as well.) Wow. I guess you retired too!

  17. So excited for you!! HipHip!!
    #1. Go see Bridesmaids. It's not very literary, but I laughed so hard I cried, so big kudos for that.
    #2. If you want to discuss literature I'm game. Can we start with Bleak House??, cause you know I'm reading it while taking pain medication every 4hrs. That's a special perspective to have:>)but suspect a discussion could be very helpful.
    Enjoy, enjoy! Am looking forward to living the wild life of retirement vicariously through you.

  18. WOW, Nance! This I was not expecting, but I'm so happy for you. Truly. And jealous. Should have had my son earlier so he'd be out of college by now and I'd be right there with you. ;-)

    Oh, and Jared's comment made me cry a little. Very sweet. There will be a big hole from your departure at your/his school I'm sure. I do feel sad for the students who adored you and were trying to get just a little more time with you, but again I'm thrilled for you!

    Big hugs,

  19. Whoa, Nance, totally unexpected! For some reason I feel sad--that students won't benefit from your gifts. But you've earned your retirement, I'm sure! Now, time to get that book published!

  20. Oh Nance!! I'm glad for you but sorry for those kids. I'm sure you were a fantastic teacher. Can't wait to hear about what you do next. Please come by the lounge.

  21. Welcome to heaven. I find most of my time filled, a smile on my face, and joy in my heart that often wasn't there before I retired. I write, joined a gym, take pictures, quilt, travel, went back to school, and volunteer at the cancer society. It's all wonderful fun.

  22. Mage--I am never, ever bored, so I think I'll have "wonderful fun" as well. And I plan to find something else to do for a supplemental income, too. But Rick wants me to see what it feels like to see September come and go without donning the heels and Mrs. D. outfit. I'm on board with that!

    aplo--Thank you. Now, please stop frustrating me and LET ME INTO THE DAMNED PLACE! Still waiting for my key!

    RD--I know it comes as a surprise,and I wasn't meaning to be coy. So much of my life as a teacher is public. One year, because of a needed tax levy, a nasty reporter even published our salaries next to our names in the paper. Kids in school brought the article in and, well, you can imagine. Also, most of the teachers I started with and taught the bulk of my career with are already out. I didn't want to spend the year hearing, "This is the last time you'll..." or have someone who doesn't really know me give remarks at the end of the year meeting about my long career. I use the analogy of the pebble into the ocean. The waves close in over it and keep on moving. That's ultimately how it will be. The school is so dynamic; kids keep coming in and it must keep conducting business. I hope I'll be fondly remembered, but in truth, I can't really afford to be missed there.

    Shirley--Thank you! Yeah, Jared can be a nice guy when he wants to be, right? LOL. As I said, I came out in a good year. I had such terrific kids this year. My CW kids were so great; they worked their heads off and always got better each time they wrote. And after a dozen years of not having a first period class, I got stuck with one this year, but they were wonderful. Absolutely cuddly. I hope as they begin to hear about my retirement, the students understand and aren't mad.

    dbso--well, crap. you would pick the one victorian novel i HAVEN'T read. how far in are you? can i catch up? what else is on your self-flagellating reading list, darling? do let me suggest something else to get you through your ordeal. my email link is in my sidebar someplace. click and send! (the last thing I would read on pain meds is the victorians, really. so unrelentingly grim. you need amphetamines and sunshine to get through them.)

  23. OMG Nance! That's huge news! Congratulations and all the best for whatever you decide to do next. Even if it's just to relax for a while. : )

  24. Don't volunteer (this is brought to you by Mrs Be Done By As You Did)
    Congrats! That first day in September when the bells ring and you sit in your kitchen and read, coffee in hand, is one of life's best moments.

  25. Nance, did you cut me off your acceptable commenter list? I have written at least five comments to all of your recent posts, and Blogger keeps telling me my HTML is wrong when I try to italicize. Then I take out the italics, and it won't stop rejecting me. I've much to say to praise your work and think Blogger is just being retarded.

  26. sputnik--oh, dearest! i have no such list, acceptable or unacceptable. the Dept. is open to everyone. i'm terribly sorry that blogger is being snarky and persnickety. perhaps you should try logging in as a stranger and avoiding its notice altogether. then you can sign your comment at the end and foil its ruthless agenda. thank you for your persistence. i'm always happy to hear from you.

    Mary G.--May i not volunteer anyplace? i was thinking of volunteering at our local animal shelter, where i rescued Piper and Marlowe. i know i won't bring anyone else home because Marlowe is so nasty to Sam's kitten, Madden, and it stressed her out. I know what you mean about Sept., though. Right now, it simply feels like i'm on summer vacation, and it hasn't fully hit me yet, I'm sure.

    Lisa--thank you. It's very exciting to contemplate. (Though I will admit that, on some days, it's a little disquieting. )

  27. Okay, Nance, what I will try to say without freaking out Blogger with italicization, and I know the quotation marks are incorrect but this is what I am stuck with:

    Run out and get the following two books: "The Benchley Roundup" (start with the essay, "How To Get Things Done"). And you must find "Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook" by Sarah Schmelling. Sit with a good glass of wine and laugh your tail off.

    Former lit teacher, Dana.

  28. Oh, congratulations! What wonderful news for you. And to retire so young is indeed a gift, and no one more worthy than yourself. Enjoy, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of you around the internets. Then again, perhaps without the exhausted part of life, you won't be plopped in front of the computer so often. If so, enjoy that as well. :)

  29. J@jj--Oh, I'm sure I'll join the ranks of what they call Semi-Retired in that I'll do Something Else after a bit. I will continue to write here at the Dept. and over at The Report, and I'm going to explore some other non-internet options in that arena perhaps. Thanks for your kind words, and while I'll be "plopping" around various places, my laptop can go with me. LOL.

    sputnik--Oh, you KNOW how I feel about MyTwitFace. To think that I might buy and then read an entire book based upon the very premise of it...well, I don't know. We'll see. I shall take an afternoon or morning at a bookstore and browse these upon your recommendation. Certainly the Laughter part of it is most worthy.

  30. I think you should start an online book club, and we'll read all the books you taught. That way, those of us who like classics and envy our teen children's ability to read and discuss them with someone who knows more than a little about literature would benefit from your brilliance and wit.

    Happy Retirement! And on behalf of citizens everywhere, thank you for your service in public education. {bowing down}

  31. V-Grrrl--If you want to get behind that, I'm all for it. Let me know if you start it up.

  32. Does this mean I don't have to take your Jane Eyre quiz?!

    I can't say I'm surprised, but I can say I'm sad I didn't get to say a proper goodbye. I've enjoyed my last (2) years with you -- sharing a room and sharing a snarky work room. You'll be missed 'round these parts.

    At least I know where to find you! :)

  33. kj--We have a signed contract, if I recall correctly, AND I DO BECAUSE I HAVE IT IN MY POSSESSION, SO NO SLACKING. Yes, you have to take My Jane Eyre Quiz. Thanks for saying such Nice Things, though. I am not one for The Big Goodbye, especially in such a public situation. It was much better to just slip out on a normal day. And I do hope you find me here often. I'll look for you. Thanks for stopping by.

  34. I'm a little late to the party, but congratulations on your retirement! I will always have the fondest memories of taking your English class and then being your aide. You introduced me to some of my favorite books...and I don't think I'll ever know if it's the books themselves, or the superb way they were taught! I'm sorry we have fallen out of touch; optometry school is taking nearly all of my spare time and energy! Enjoy your summer...and then all the seasons after that! Thank you for making at least some of my time in high school utterly memorable and enjoyable.

  35. jenomena--What lovely things to say. You were a super student and, as you must know, a terrific aide. I will always count you among my favourite people. Press on in optometry school, where I know you will continue to excel. And give my best to your wonderful mother.

  36. Brandon D.11:29 PM

    Thank you for being one of my all-time favorite and most influential teachers. :) You made English class memorable and enjoyable. While it makes me sad that I never got to officially say goodbye, I'm very happy for you.

    See you around,
    B-Dalt. :)

  37. But who will dispense Red Pen Massacres? Well we'll all be sad when we don't see you next year. I'm happy for you, though. I hope your career was fulfilling and I hope that life away from it will be fulfilling as well. I hope we can keep in touch somehow. I'm going to need an honest opinion on my future works.

    With Love (as cliche as it is),
    The Good One

  38. Nick (The Good One)--My teaching career was Wonderful. Not only was I proud of what I did, I loved what I taught and was excited every single time I taught it. Creative Writing was always a highlight for me, and I never felt anything but proud and privileged to work with the students in that class year after year. I am only an email click away--right there in my sidebar. Keep writing. Your talent is huge and your voice is so worthy. xxoo

    B.--Even reading your name makes me smile! You are such a terrific person and motivated, tenacious learner. Thank YOU for being a great kid to have in class and for being a giving, helpful aide (whom I poached from the secretarial staff part-time!!). Who needs Official Goodbyes? Sounds terrible to me. I'm not dead. And don't be sad. We had a nice goodbye and you can still chat with me here. xxoo

  39. Life at the Funny Farm11:09 AM

    I'm also late to the party. (More life craziness than usual.) I hope retirement is everything you envisioned it to be. I'm always sad to hear that an excellent teacher has retired--the good ones are few and far between, and can make all the difference in the lives of their students. My daughter's art teacher throughout high school was (and still is) her second mom.

    But now it's on to lovely restful days (for a while at least), cattens and martinis. Enjoy. You've earned it.

  40. Laff--Well, welcome back to the party! Thank you for saying such kind things about me as well as about another teacher and teachers in general here. I hope you say them often and to other teachers, too. Trust me, you cannot say them often enough, especially these days. I'm sure retirement WILL be as restful as I envision it, simply from the standpoint that I will not have the same kinds of stresses and frustrations. Unless you've been In The Trenches, you really cannot truly know. But thank you. Very much.

  41. Jesus Christ, I thought you'd die in that place, Nance! I can't believe you didn't tell anyone. But, geez, congratulations to you. May your retirement be filled with pesto, Nutella, and the lovliest of nonrequired reading. In all seriousness, you taught me more than anyone else has about teaching, which is funny because I never even saw you teach. Let me know if you ever want to get coffee and tell me everything you know about Catcher. Congrats again, soul sista'.

  42. Laura--What a wonderful thing to say! All teachers want to know that they've inspired students, but to know that I've had that kind of effect upon another teacher, well, that's just very humbling and very touching. You know I think you're a terrific teacher, and while I hated to see you leave us, I knew you would go on to blossom in another English department and carry the best of Us with you. I'd love to meet up one day soon and talk about all kinds of things.

  43. ginnywoj5:37 PM

    Having just gotten home from my 18th high school graduation, I was searching an appropriate image for my FB page to celebrate the completion of this year and I happened upon your blog. From the martini glass to the Alice Cooper reference, it is right on! I don't know that I will make 30 years (I was a late bloomer) but I enjoyed you blog. That A. Cooper song has been in my head all week.

  44. ginnywoj--I hope you come back and read here (and chime in) often. Congrats on sticking it out for 18 thus far, and good luck on many, many more.


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