What’s Next ??

What’s Next ??

The most obvious question people will ask when I tell of my retirement plans is, “Well, what are you going to do after you retire?”  I would say that a simple question, to which there are no simple answers.  Here is a list of possibilities, in no particular order.

1.  Nothing – This option, at least at first,  is tempting.  But I also realize I’m still just fifty years old and there’s hopefully much more life in front of me.  I think in order to keep my mind working properly, I really don’t need to lean towards this plan.

2.  Substitute Teach – There’s always a need for good substitute teachers and no lack of days to be filled.  I wouldn’t be responsible for all the lesson planning and grading of papers, but once again I would be in school, which is one of the things I’m thinking of steering away from after my last teaching days.

3.  Teach at a community college – I have previously taught math at CVCC.  The pay is good and although there are not benefits, I really wouldn’t need any.  One of the best things about state retirement is that you get to keep your health insurance.  Teaching adults can be easier in some respects, but once again, I would be back in a school setting.

4.  Go to graduate school – Appalachian State offers a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Addictions Counseling.  I have previously looked into these programs enough to know that my current M.A. would alleviate some of the coursework I would have to take.  I’m not 100% sure counseling is what I’d really like to do and once again, I’d be back in the school setting, at least for a while.  It would be sort of neat to be a college student again.

5. Get a job in the private sector – Something tells me that I’d like a job in which I’m just responsible for me, myself, and I.  Not in charge of thirty-some teens and their raging hormones,,,, not responsible for keeping up with a plethora of paperwork… not having to bring work home.  I don’t know exactly what I’d like to do, but there are many options.  I do know that with the economy the way it is, there may be some limitations with this choice.

Regardless of which choice I finally end up making, I once again trust in the God of my understanding to keep me headed in the right direction.  At the point-in-time when there’s a decision to be made, I’m sure I’ll know what He wants me to do and if not, I know there’s no harm in waiting to find out.

“Trust in the Lord with your whole heart; do not depend on  your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do and He will direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

David Lee

Deciding When It’s Time to Say Good-Bye

Deciding When It’s Time to Say Good-Bye

In the decision I’ve made to retire at the end of the current school year, there are many factors that play a part.  I’ll make a list and to the best of my ability tell what my thinking is in each case.

1.)  I’ve gotten enough years of service and with additional sick days, am eligible to retire…. – I think there’s a reason why the thirty year mark is there.  Not that there aren’t quality teachers that stay around longer than that, but I feel it’s there for a reason.  If I count my years as a student, I’ve been in school for forty-four of my fifty years.  I think I’m ready to graduate!

2.)  Over the past several years it’s become more difficult to be physically and mentally sharp enough to continue teaching at a quality level of performance…. – We’re all getting older, that’s a fact of life.  Our physical selves aren’t able to do some of the things we once were.  Our mental processes slow from what they once were.  I still feel well and I think I’m of a sane mind (at least most days), but I’ve noticed it takes a bit longer to do things and remembering things is not as easy as it once was for me.  I think my patience with things I don’t have any control over has shortened somewhat as well.

3.) I enjoy what I do, but don’t want to let it get to the point where I hate my job.,,, So much has changed about the teaching profession over the years, especially the last several.  It seems that teachers are responsible for more and more and aren’t given any additional hours in the day to take care of all that needs to be done.  And while I think many administrators have a good idea of what it’s like in the classroom, when edicts come down from on high to do this and to do that on top of everything else we’ve been doing, it gets to be a bit much.  It’s a little different to sit in an office somewhere and make choices about what teachers should do, but yet another thing to be in their shoes and actually have to carry those plans out.

I see more and more outside interference in what I do in my day-to-day teaching.  After twenty-eight years, I’m still being told specifics on what I should or should not be doing in my daily lessons.  Not that I don’t appreciate the advice, but I would like to think my years of experience stand for something.  Give me some choices, but don’t micro-manage what I’m doing each day to the point I have to delete some strategies that I know work for me.

4.) I trust my intuition and it’s telling me it’s time to go… – I sometimes kid with people that of all the classrooms in the school, mine’s the one closest to the parking lot.  And before you say, “He’s just saying that,” please know that I look for signs that are pointing me in the direction to take.

I have a determined faith in God and when I feel he’s leading me to do something, I’m likely to take that lead.  I pray each day and ask God to give me a clean heart and a clear mind to do those things He would have me to do.  And if this is what my mind’s telling me on a consistent basis, then I’m going to follow that lead.  I truly think there are other things that He would like me to be doing with my life at this point in time.  And this reason, above all others, is why I’ve made the decision I’ve made.

“Trust in the Lord with your whole heart; do not depend on  your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do and He will direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

David Lee

Years of Service – Part Three

Years of Service – Part Three

During the first two years of my tenure at H.M. Arndt I taught both seventh and eighth grade math and science.  I was paired with Betty Lohr, who had more than thirty years experience.  The second of those two years I taught an algebra class and had a pre-algebra class as well.

The next year Betty had decided to retire and they were losing another position anyway, so I was moved to the eighth grade, where for the first time in my career I was teaching just science with no math classes.  After that year I requested a move to the seventh grade and that was granted, as once again I was teaching only science.  Another move was made the following year and I was switched to yet another pod within the school.  This is the second year with that group of teachers and for the first time in a long, long time in addition to teaching science, I have a class of social studies.

So this is where I find myself at this day and time.  The third month of my twenty-ninth year in teaching.  Twenty-three years with the Hickory Schools and the beginning of my sixth year with the Catawba County Schools.

The decision to retire has in some ways relatively easy, but as the day approaches I realize this is a really big step with lots of implications for the rest of my days on earth.  I’m always open to new possibilities and know better to “never say never,” but it would take some major shift in feeling on my part to abandon the idea of retiring at the end of this school year.

David Lee

Next: “So why is it you’ve decided to hang it up?”

Years of Service – Part Two

Years of Service – Part Two

Once again the school year started up and once again I didn’t have a teaching position.  I decided it would be a good idea to at least substitute teach to have myself  “out there” in case a position would become open.  I made index cards with my name and address and took it to each of the schools so I wouldn’t be just another name on the list.

I got two sub requests from College Park Intermediate School, where I had gone to school at during those years of my life.  I substituted for Mrs. Reeves a couple of days and then for Mr. Johnson another two.  It was on the last of that four day stint when I go a call from Clinton Sigmon, who at that time was principal at Grandview Intermediate School.  He was the principal at College Park when I had been there as a student.  He told me that he had a sixth grade position open and wanted to know if I would be interested in that job.  I agreed and the very next day found myself at Grandview preparing for students that would be coming from overcrowded classes on the hall.

That sixth grade year was much smoother than my first year.  I found the intermediate school schedule much more to my liking.  You would have the students for about an hour and a half and then would get a whole new group. My responsibilities were teaching math and science, so I didn’t have to worry about language arts, reading, and social studies.

The end of my second year in teaching rang a familiar tone.  A month before the end of school I received a certified stating that my contract was not being renewed.  The only difference was, this time the principal said, “I think we still may have something for you.”  A common sense approach would say that those extra sixth graders would still be in the school the next year and the seventh grade would still be short at least one teacher.  So before we left for summer vacation, I had signed a contract for the next year.  It seems that if there’s even a slight possibility that you may not be hired back, that dreaded letter has to be sent.  It would have been so bad if they also hadn’t published our names in the paper without explanation.

The next year I was once again teaching seventh grade math and science and the schedule was very much to my liking.  At the end of this year another teacher had decided to retire, so although I had to switch rooms I didn’t have to worry about being without a job.

During the next twenty years I taught math and science at Grandview.  There was a five year stint where I was moved to the eighth grade, where I taught algebra.  It was during that period of time that I got to teach my son Patrick.  He was in algebra class and there was just the one and I was the teacher, so it couldn’t be avoided.  There weren’t really any problems, although I will say with thirty-six students, that class was the largest I’ve ever taught.

I was back to the seventh grade and during that tenure also got to teacher my daughter Heather.  This time around there were other math teachers she could have been with for her learning.  I didn’t request that she be in my class either way.  At that time I figured if she was supposed to be in my class she would and if not, so be it.  There were some class adjustments after the first couple weeks of school and I do remember telling the principal that I didn’t want her moved out of my class.  Once again, having a child of my own as a student didn’t pose a problem.

After twenty-two years at Grandview and one additional year at Southwest, I decided to leave the Hickory system.  I had gone through a lot of other life changes in 2002 and came to the decision that perhaps I needed to get a fresh start at a place where I could begin anew.

I didn’t have any problems getting another position.  As it turns out if a principal has a teacher with twenty-three years of experience, it saves them a lot of angst in knowing how the teacher will perform.  The choices were narrowed down to River Bend, Jacobs Fork, and H.M. Arndt.  It was indeed a difficult decision to make, but he Arndt job afforded me a unique situation and that’s where I decided to make my move.

To be continued…

David Lee

Years of Service – Part One

Years of Service – Part One

My teaching career has spanned twenty eight years and two and a half months.  All of those have been in Catawba County,  including my semester of student teaching at St. Stephens Elementary in 1981.

In ’81 teaching jobs were hard to come by.  I hadn’t been hired by the first week of school and things weren’t looking good.  The Hickory Recreation Department, who I had worked part time for during my teens, employed me as a center supervisor at the Highland Recreation Center.  I wasn’t exactly sure that was what I wanted to do with my life, but it was job and that was important.  To add to the convenience, the center was just up the street from my house, so I didn’t even have to get in a car to go to work.

I will also mention that I had interviewed with Hickory Chair Company for a position.  Tom Baker was looking for someone to fill the shoes of John Sexton, who had been promoted.  To be honest with you, I thought I was a shoe-in for that job, since I knew both the men involved.  And I’ll say I was disappointed when I didn’t get that vacancy, but later on I figured that even things don’t work out, they too are a part of the master plan.

So a month into the center supervisor position, I get a call from Joe Caldwell, who was principal at Southwest Elementary.  He said a teacher’s husband had been transferred out of state and that she would have to leave her position.  He wanted to know if I’d like to consider that position for a fourth grade class.  Fourth grade wasn’t exactly what I desired to teach, but I interviewed for the job and got it.  Joe came over to Highland to have me sign the contract… as it turns out he was principal at the school when it still housed elementary students.

To say that I got off to a rough start would be putting it mildly.  I had gone from being in college for four years to being responsible for a group of twenty-five children, most of whom were only ten years old.  It took me a long while to get adjusted and there were three times I went into Joe’s office wanting to hang it all up, but somehow figured I would stick it out.

I learned a lot that first year, mostly what not to do in teaching.  It wasn’t a total shock when I wasn’t hired back for the following year.  I once again was left not knowing what direction my life would take.  The summer was spent working with the recreation department’s field maintenance crew and hoping that another teaching post would soon avail itself.

To be continued…

David Lee

Page One

Page One

When looking at the preceding post, some would say “Where did you come up with the forty-four year period of time in schools?”  Unless I started at a very young age as a teacher (I’m currently fifty years old), that would have been quite a feat.  I’m including in that number my own years as a student, beginning in the first grade.

I went to Kenworth Elementary School from first through sixth grades.  The school is still standing and often when I go by I have a flood of memories to go along with the view.

College Park Junior High School was the next stop.  I had the seventh through ninth grades in that building, which now houses the alternative school as well as the American Red Cross.

Hickory High was next in line.  At that point, high school covered tenth through twelfth grades and it was from there that I graduated in 1977.  We recently had our thirtieth reunion and it was good to see so many that I knew way-back-when.

I decided to be a homeboy and went to Lenoir-Rhyne College, where I started out as a business major.  When I was registering for the sophomore spring semester, I got in line behind a young woman and struck up a conversation with her  immediately.  Turns out she was an education major and began telling me about how excited she was with her coursework.  To make a long story short, by the time I go to the end of the line, I had changed from a business major to an education major.  Sometime I wonder how life would have turn out if I hadn’t gotten behind her in line.

After graduating from Lenoir-Rhyne in 1981, I began my teaching career.  After my student teaching experience as well as my first year of teaching, I wasn’t entirely sure I had made the right choice.  But as most of our lives bear out, we end up doing exactly what we’re supposed to in life.

I returned to Lenoir-Rhyne and took coursework to be able to teach gifted education.  Those eighteen credit hours equaled half of what was needed to get a master’s degree, so I went ahead and got the remaining hours and received my M.A. in middle school gifted education in 1989.

Next,,, My teaching years

David Lee

The Beginning of the End…

The Beginning of the End…

I’ve decided as I work my way through my twenty-ninth year of teaching that this will be my final year in the classroom.  I was keeping a journal of thoughts and feelings on the matter and will use this blog to chronicle my last year in the profession.  I was unsure at first as to what my final decision would be, but it’s become clear to me that this will be my last in the profession.

So over the next eight months, I will chronicle my comings and goings, especially relating to the workplace and all the thoughts and emotions that go with the institution  that has taken a part of each of the past forty-four years in my life.

I also realize these entries will be the gateway into a new and exciting part of my life in which I’m able to do some of those things I’ve always wanted to do.  As of right now, I’m unsure what I’ll do at the end of the school year, but I do know to take it one day at a time and keep my eyes focused on what’s really important.

David Lee

Divine Providence in My Life

Whether or not I was consciously aware of it at the time, God’s presence has been a guiding force in the circumstances of my life. As I seek to have a clear relationship with Him, I can only surmise that I’ll be much more aware of how He works in my life.

Not that I’ll always or even most of the time understand why things happen as they do.  But I do have awareness of God’s everlasting promise to be by my side and to never leave me nor forsake me.

The are many stories in the Bible I feel a connection with that parallel some of the events in my life.  In the Old Testament, one of my favorite examples in the story of David’s conquest of Goliath.  David was destined for great things in God’s kingdom, but as this story begins, he’s just a shepherd boy tending his flock.  Although he was not look at as a strong and courageous person, he had what they lacked – faith in God.  He realized and declared that the giant would be defeated not through his own efforts, but by the power of the almighty God.  I see in my own life that the “Goliath’s” in my experiences have been overcome because God did for me what I could not do for myself.

In the New Testament, I am drawn to the story of the prodigal son.  The fact that the son could return home to his father’s house was due to his father’s forgiving nature and love.  The boy had decided that he had better ideas of how to live his life and spend his inheritance and his father allowed him to do so.  There are times in all of our lives when God allows us to follow our own free will, even though it may not be in line with what He would choose for us.  During my days, I had strayed far away from what God would have me to be.  But just as in this story, God runs back to us with loving arms when sees that we realize the errors of our ways and ask for forgiveness.

In both of these examples, I can see myself and the path my life has taken.  Not all of it has been easy and I’ve experienced a lot of pain.  But as my faith in God increases I can see, just like Joseph, that it has all worked together for good.

So this day I go forward, with the conscious choices that lie ahead firmly in my view.  I each day ask God to give me a clean heart and a clear mind so I can best serve His will for my  life and the lives of those around me.