Friday, June 22, 2012

Goodbye, North Warren Central School

The tables are clean, the shelves are empty, and the bulletin boards are bare. The door is locked and the keys have been handed over to the new art teacher.

I've spent the past 37 years teaching in NY state public schools, 27 of those years in my current district, and 13 in my current building and room, which was brand new when I moved in. So I have been the first and only tenant in this classroom. But now it belongs to someone else.

The ritual of honking and waving is over.

Yesterday was our annual end-of -year luncheon and these were the cute cakes.
(sorry it won't rotate)
Today friend 'C' spent a lot of time in my room helping me clean and sort. We came across this self-portrait I did several years ago, when some students were painting their own self-portraits. My glasses have changed, and my hair has less dark left in it, and I wasn't wearing my punctuation earrings today, but otherwise I guess I haven't changed much.

A lot of people stopped in my room to say goodbye and ask how I felt. Truth is, I feel just fine, though tired. (I've spent the last several weeks with the philosophy of a Warren Zevon song: "I'll sleep when I'm dead".) But I did not even get emotional. My favorite goodbye was from the male 2nd grade teacher (a really cool guy who now owns my frog). He walked by me on our way back from the waving, and said "I don't do goodbye." I said "me neither" and we both kept walking.

If I had been at all unsure or ambivalent about my choice to retire, the last several weeks have made it much easier. NY State's new regulations regarding student assessments and teacher evaluations, which seem to change on a daily basis, have everyone stressed to the max. In the final days of school, many teachers were stuck in training, or writing SLO's, or doing other stuff related to the new regs that took them frequently out of their classrooms on their last days with their students.

Meanwhile, a couple of key staff cuts mean some challenges for elementary scheduling and teaching for the coming year. Our school has always had a K-12 library and one librarian, with a full time library aide. With the position of her library aide cut for the coming year, how does the librarian teach elementary library classes if she has high school students at the same time needing library services? And with the elementary computer class being discontinued, and the former computer teacher becoming the new art teacher (my replacement), the elementary teachers will be expected to do all the computer instruction, which is especially important this coming year as they have been told that a technology element needs to be incorporated in all subject areas. Who will the teachers go to when they need help? I know if I was still going to be teaching, it would be a problem for me because I have ZERO experience with teaching computers.

I know none of this is my problem any more but I feel for the challenges my colleagues will face. The stress has been evident throughout the building.

One last thing here - way back when I was still a college art ed student, one tidbit told to us students by our professors really stuck in my mind: an art teacher should always take the time to make friends with their custodians, as they are your most important allies. For those of you newer teachers, let me tell you, this may have been the most important bit of real world advice that I learned in college. I can't thank my wonderful custodians enough for putting up with me and all my messes, for watering my (many) plants on vacations, for hauling heavy stuff out of and into my car, for hanging framed student artwork in the halls, for just generally being good, kind, nice, helpful people, and for so many others things I can't name here. Thank you Dawn and Dan and Randy and Tim and Joe and Jerry and all the others in years gone by. You are the best! They took very good care of me. And thanks to the college profs that had the good sense to make sure they passed on that important tidbit of advice to their students.

That's all for tonight, but lest you think I'm out of stuff to post about, don't worry. I have several years worth of photos saved, with projects I still want to share with you, and even some recent stuff I haven't yet posted. (An aside here: my original plan was to post the photos of my empty room with just the word GOODBYE and nothing more. As you can see, I couldn't keep myself from babbling so much more.)

So have a good summer, but keep visiting because I'll still be blogging!


  1. I loved to hear that you didn't feel emotional on your leaving day. It tells me there is a right time to leave. I will keep visiting. Thank you.

  2. Happy retirement Phyl! I look forward to hearing about your new adventures! Have a great summer! :)

  3. I am so happy for you, Phyll. I know you will have no problem filling your days with your own projects. I have two years to go, so I'll live vicariously through you til my own time comes. I'd like to concur with you about custodians. My own professors shared the same advice. jan

  4. Get some much deserved rest! You must be totally exhausted after the art show and cleaning!! I stop by everyday friend so I won't say goodbye just excited to ride with you on the next journey.

  5. We, too, were given that valuable advice about custodians and I couldn't agree more!! Congratulations on this milestone. As one retiree to another, I think you're going to like the freedom that having more time offers. So many things in this world to explore and learn about. When I was working full time I often would think, "Oh I'll do that when I have more time" and whatever it was got relegated to the summer. Now, I just dive right in and try new stuff all the time without considering available time.

    I look forward to reading about what you'll be diving into (and I don't just mean your beloved lake)!!

    1. Though the lake will definitely be a part of it!

  6. Fantastic! Keep on posting and passing on your advice and wisdom. It is much appreciated.
    Something tells me you will always be apart of North Warren Central School. :)

  7. So excited for you! Retirement is a thing to be anticipated, but you have made it. I wish you many happy days free to do as you please. I will still be trudging through with Common Core and stringent teacher evaluations for a while longer. *sigh* HAVE FUN!!!

  8. Congratulations, Phyl! And YES, the number one thing I remember from being in college for art ed was "befriend the cleaning staff!" and they were SO right! I can't get through a day without relying on the custodial staff for something. They are so essential to how well a school (especially an art class!) runs.

  9. congrats on your new journey!

  10. I also retired this spring after 36 years of teaching art in Iowa. I too was too tired to feel emotional about it. I look forward to many new art adventures and count my blessings for many wonderful custodians.

  11. Wishing you all the best in your retirement! I echo your sentiments about custodians - thank you for reminding everyone about their importance to us! There is nothing like entering my room in the morning and being greeted by clean sinks, clean floors and clean tables! More often than not, my plants were watered, and occasionally (when she couldn't stand the chaos) my desk left straightened with neat piles in place of a spread of papers, projects & supplies. A few times, when I noticed something seemed different in the room I determined that she had dusted & straightened my bookshelves as well...what a blessing!
    I look forward to your future posts as I'm sure it will be many more years before you actually 'retire'...

  12. Hey Phyl,

    After reading all of the nice things people had to say to you, I don't have much else to add except to say I wish it was me too! I keep telling everyone I have 4 more years left in me, but I know that's probably wishful thinking! I am so happy for you and will look froward to many more posts about art, art education, and the joys of retirement. I raise my glass to you!