Last June, after a thirty – five year career in education in the Montreal area, I left my high school classroom for the last time. Now, twelve months later, I still ponder that happening and further deliberate on what I have accomplished in this the initial year of my rather abrupt withdrawal from everyday work life.
Thinking back to last spring, I was offered a myriad of advice by family, friends, and especially former colleagues who had already travelled down the retirement road. For instance, I was told by many that the most significant test to terminating efficaciously my life long vocation as a pedagogue would be to avoid the natural temptation of regularly returning to my former school for a “look round.” Of all the advice I received at the time, that struck me as primordial. In fairness to me and my former students, I went back but occasionally – twice, in fact, both of which, because of the receptions I was accorded, were for me very poignant experiences.
The first of two visits occurred last autumn when I was favoured with the privilege of addressing the Graduating Class of 2006 during commencement exercises held in the school auditorium; the second, in the dead of winter, when I took in the school’s annual Science Fair. This latter function presented to me the welcome and gratifying occasion to interact with many of my former students from the preceding year. I am pleased to report to you that their lives are unfolding as they should and as I knew they would.
The second piece of advice which was frequently advanced to me (and I think to all those who face retirement) is, of course, the absolute necessity of having interests and activities with which to engage one’s time. Fortunately for me, that has rarely proved an issue as my abiding passion for genealogy and local history have provided me with many golden and productive opportunities to help pass away the hours. Furthermore, delving daily at university libraries into the history of Edwardian Montreal has afforded me the possibility of presenting this information and data to both the Quebec Family History Society last fall in Lachine and, more recently, to the Leeds & Grenville Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society last February in Brockville. Earlier this month, in fact, I assisted at the plenary session of the OGS which was held at Algonquin College in Ottawa.
In fact, since retirering, I have found myself standing at the lectern, while not as often as in my erstwhile classroom, certainly more often than I would have thought. In that regard, I felt deeply honoured last October when my former colleagues chose me to address, on their behalf, the school board dinner for educators who had, that year, terminated their careers in teaching.
So as not to slip too quickly into an established and insular routine, I also chose to travel. Last November, for example, I spent a good part of the month in Tunisia, the country of my Carthaginian dreams. There I saw both Phoenician and Roman ruins the like of which I have never seen elsewhere. As well, it was in that tiny North African country that I re-acquainted myself with adolescents, in this case Tunisian teenagers who were omnipresent with their teachers ( and their mobile phones ! ) at many of the archeological sites. Moreover, as my flight to the Tunis-Carthage airport was via London, I also spent a few days in that fabulous and historic city, particularly at a nearby research centre where I pursued my genealogical investigation into the comings and goings of some of my more elusive ancestors.
I have also been writing, as I am a firm believer that everyone has something to say or, at least, should have something to say. One of my favourite pieces playfully carries the Perry Como song title “Magic Moments” and deals with my day to day observations as I amble about the Montreal city centre deep in thought. In fact, urban walking is one of my preferred activities as I casually tally up a minimum of eight kilometres per day, weather permitting.
In short, it’s been an intriguing and challenging twelve months of closure and adjustment. Do I miss teaching and do I miss my students? Of course, I do. I think of them often and wonder how they are progressing with their studies and, more important, with life in general. I speculate about the adventures that await them when they are the age that I am now in the year 2052 ! Needless to say, I wish them well, all of them. As for me, my musing will probably continue for awhile longer, along with my writing.