Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Search for Meaning

They say that when people reach a certain stage in life, they look for things to make their lives meaningful. Throughout my years as a teacher, that search for meaning eluded me, partly because the job both haunted and consumed me, leaving little time for engagement with the larger world, and partly due to my belief that whatever I accomplished in the classroom had less to do with me and more to do with the innate talents and discipline of my students. Now into the second year of my retirement, I find both my interests and the focus of this blog diverging from its initial purpose of offering observations and commentary about education and moving into areas of which I feel an educated person should be aware. You might say that I am now trying to reengage with the larger world.

To that end, I suspect that more of my entries henceforth will be eclectic in nature, reflective of this search for meaning, although I have no intention of allowing them to devolve into maudlin self-indulgence. (I’ll leave that to people like Shelagh Rogers and her execrable program on C.B.C. radio, Sounds Like Canada.) To mark this shift, I would like to begin a series on how we, as individuals, through either acts of omission or commission, can have a positive impact on the world. The first act relates to retired teachers.

While I realize the situation varies tremendously depending upon where you live, in my school board, there are many retired teachers who do supply teaching and take long term occasional positions. The problem with this is that it deprives a large number of young people the opportunity of working and making themselves known to administrators. One young man I know, for example, who had worked for about three years on contract at my school, is now on the supply list but gets called an average of once or twice a month, while many retired teachers drawing healthy pensions are called much more regularly, owing to the fact that they are well-known due to their former status.

So my suggestion is a simple one: when you retire, unless your board is chronically short of supply teachers, make a young person’s life a little easier and future employment prospects brighter by consciously choosing NOT to supplant them; elect NOT to be put on the supply list. I have never regretted my decision to make way for a new generation of young people.

If I can find the file, in my next post I would like to provide an amended version of an article I wrote on this topic about a year before I retired.

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