Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Retirement anniversary~ one year!


When I retired last June, my then 24-year-old daughter was on a business trip in Copenhagen, and couldn't attend the retirement party. She sent this note, which my son read aloud. It made me cry then, and I see now that it still chokes me up. Forgive my indulgence for posting it . . . but an "anniversary" warrants looking back. And I am.

Mom,

For 36 years, you have corrected quizzes, monitored lunch rooms, chaperoned field trips, assigned homework, led discussions, read aloud, taught spelling words, and taken home class pets for summer vacations.

I’ve gotten used to finding containers of mealworms – the most recent class pet’s food of choice – firmly wedged into the refrigerator between the butter and the cream cheese.

You’ve made it clear to children that their, they’re, and there, are spelled differently – something a lot of adults I work with can’t get right, but your 11-year-olds wouldn’t be careless enough to mix them up for fear of disappointing you, and your red pen.

You’ve tied shoes, explained the multiplication tables, patiently stated that just using spell check isn’t good enough, and taught children how to think critically, and most importantly, think for themselves.

When I was a little kid, I loved visiting your classroom. I remember bright sunlight streaming through the windows, and books and building blocks spread throughout the room. I relished sinking my feet into the soft carpet of the reading circle and testing each desk to see which had the best view of the chalkboard. It was a treat to sort through all the posters and decorations you had saved to adorn each bulletin board for each change of subject or season, and I especially loved tapping on the glass of the current rat or lizard in the cage by the windowsill. I looked at the student essays tacked on the walls and eagerly anticipated the day when I would write my own essay, to be stuck on our refrigerator at home.

You set the bar for my own time in elementary school extremely high, and I constantly compared my own teachers’ classrooms to yours, knowing that the chairs in your classroom were better, you read every character’s voice flawlessly, and you had a far better variety of books in your bookshelves. Certainly you were reading Charlotte’s Web to your kids while I was stuck practicing my handwriting.

Having you for a mother has ingrained in me a deep respect for all teachers. It is one of the very toughest careers, requiring endless patience, intelligence, and creativity – traits you have in spades. Your students look up to you and they will always remember you when they think about their childhood, and thank you for the positive impact you had on all their lives.

All one has to do to see just how much respect and admiration your students have for you is look at the cards you get from them on every holiday and last day of school. Crayon messages on carefully folded pieces of construction paper bear words of thanks and admiration, and when you would bring boxes of cards and candies home on these special days I would get a lump in my throat to see there were so many other kids out there to whom you meant so much. Then I would dig through the box to look for any chocolate chip cookies.

And now, after years of being a guiding light to so many lucky students, you are going to turn your classroom lights off for the last time and start on your own “field trip.” And you’ll finally be able to sleep in.

You have so much in store for you!! Think of all the time you now have to do anything you want!! You’re going to garden. You’re going to write. You’re going to travel. You’re going to photograph everything. You’re going to read so many books that your favorite authors are going to struggle to keep up. You can throw away your alarm clock, and you’ll never again have to rise before the sun to shovel out your car on a frigid, blustery winter morning!

You will do all these things and more, knowing that for the rest of your life, wherever you go and whatever you see, you are held in the hearts of hundreds of children and colleagues who remember you as a fantastic teacher, inspiration, and friend.

And, if you ever miss teaching, just remember that you’ll always have a permanent student in me.

I’m so proud of you. Congratulations!

Love,
Joanna

10 comments:

Jody said...

Ruth,

I can't tell you how much I thoroughly enjoyed reading your daughter's letter to you. More than once, I, too, got choked up.

This is a beautiful testament, an acknowledgment of the highest order, of how you taught your children well. All of them. You earned every word of that endearing letter.

Thanks so much for sharing it with us!

Jody

Dave said...

What beautiful commentary to a person who has done much to give many people many lessons to learn in life. Your daughter's pride and admiration shines forth thoughout the entire letter. You should be proud of her and of yourself. When we talk about unconditional love you are the example. Thank you for sharing and congrats.

Rozel (a.k.a. Michelle) said...

Ok now I want to cry. I think you have set the bar high for teachers AND mothers. What a GREAT letter!

Happy One Year Anniversary!

Borbbolletta said...

Ruth,

I've read your daughter's letter and I almost cried. It's so touching... and I'm pretty sure you deserve each word.

I'm here to congratulate you. You should be happy and proud!

Sandra

Wanda said...

Oh Ruth, what a lovely tribute to a beautiful woman and teacher.

Who would know you better than your daughter.... How precious are those words.... I cried.

You are so special Ruth...

Love and Hugs
Wanda

Tere said...

This made me cry also Ruth. Your daughter is very perceptive and has obviously inherited your talent for writing. What a beautiful tribute, not only to you as a teacher but to you as a mother.

Lisa said...

Such a touching, beautiful letter, Ruth.
I especially love the part, "...after years of being a guiding light to so many lucky students, you are going to turn your classroom lights off for the last time and start on your own “field trip.” And you’ll finally be able to sleep in."
Your daughter is such a wonderful writer.

I hope you and I can get together very soon. I've been thinking of you & missing you lots. xxoo

Pauline said...

This brought a lump to my throat, too! Your daughter is right - a good teacher touches so many! And are you doing all those wonderful things she said you would in retirement?

Pam said...

This is beautiful.

Drew Harrison said...

That is so touching. A note like that truly spells out the impact you've made on other people. Kudos to you, and may you stay happy and satisfied with the work you've done.

Keep enjoying your retirement!