I realized this afternoon that the beginning of the next year will mark the end of my first decade in retirement. Who would have ever known the journey that I would have traveled when I made that decision to leave the classroom ten years ago? Or at least I thought I was leaving….

The first six months of retirement require that you not work for the state during that time period. I took the opportunity to go on a chartered trip to six different major league baseball games in seven days. It was a most enjoyable trip and I got to go to places I might have never seen otherwise.

At the end of that six month period, I was fairly certain that I wanted to keep active by substitute teaching. I remember my first assignment, working for a seventh grade teacher that I’d ended my career with just the year before. There were more ample opportunities to substitute I found and it seemed to be an easy enough job to work only when I had the desire to.

One summer day I was at the local cafe and saw a principal whose son I had taught and she inquired as to whether or not I’d be interested in doing an maternity leave for one of her teachers at an elementary school. That job would be the first of five maternity leaves that I did at three different schools, with each one lasting approximately six weeks.

In yet another situation, a teacher was retiring in October from the school I had last worked at before retiring. I was asked to work for a nine week period and then a replacement would be found. Well the nine weeks came and went and a replacement wasn’t secured, so I ended up working that position for 3/4 of the school year.

The following year, another middle school in the district had a teacher vacate his position after the first half of the year and they needed someone to teach eighth grade science for the second half of the year. I accepted that position and can honestly say it was probably one of the most difficult positions I’ve held. But the end result was that the students did quite well on their end of grade exam and that left me with a good feeling for what I’d done.

There were several other medical leaves I handled for teachers, two of them at the beginning of the school year. They were either at the school I had last worked at or for teachers I knew well, which made them quite a bit easier. I will have to say it’s a bit hard to leave a group that you started the year with, but it comes along with the territory.

I got an opportunity three years ago to teach fifth grade science every day for half a day. It was at a school I had become familiar with through having done three maternity leaves there. It was also my good fortune during one half of one year to get to teach alongside my daughter, who was the media coordinator at the school before accepting another position. That gig lasted for two years, including the challenging last year, which was in a single wide trailer. At the end of last school year, the school was able to hire a full time teacher, so that job came to a close.

The most recent position that I held was at an elementary school. The principal who have given me my first interim position was herself doing an interim at an elementary school I’d never worked at before. The job was teaching fourth grade science and social studies and I’d be needed for the first nine weeks of the school year. That nine weeks came and went without them securing another teacher, so I ended up working there the whole first half of the year.

I was informed a couple of weeks before Christmas break that the system had secured another teacher for the position and that my services would no longer be needed after the first of the year. I had actually anticipated that I might have this position for the remainder of the school year, but such was not the case. I can say without a doubt that this was the hardest position I’ve had to leave. I was blessed to have the opportunity to work with two extraordinary teachers and a wonderful group of kids and I will very much miss them the second half of the year.

So as I begin the new year, for the first time in two and a half years, I’ll just go back to substitute teaching again. I have checked into the automated system that informs you of vacancies and have as of yet to been assigned my first sub job, which I’m sure will come at some point in the next couple of weeks.

I like to post pictures on social media when I work at various schools and I’ve adopted the hashtag #redefiningthewordretirement . And I suppose that’s what I’ll be doing in the weeks, months, and years ahead. God only knows what avenues that journey will take.

David Lee

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