18 August 2013

XXX: The Beginning of the End

Today is the last day of my summer vacation. My LAST summer vacation. This coming June, in 2014, I will retire from teaching. Tomorrow begins my 30th year of working in the classrooms of California's public high schools. In my career I've taught Physical Science, Ecology, Computer Science, Physics, Chemistry, Natural Resources, Basic Math, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry, Advanced Algebra & Trigonometry, Health, Physical Education, Remedial English, and believe it or not, Music Appreciation. I'm sure I've missed a few things on that list, actually, as I've done so many things in the classroom over the years I've lost track. I've also been--somewhat out of character for me--an HIV/AIDS Educator and Substance Abuse Counselor. I was a District Technology Coordinator for a while, too, and a Freshman Core Coordinator, a mouthful of vagueness that perfectly described my responsibilities. I've been a class and club adviser, but never a coach. (When you teach nerd subjects like the physical sciences and mathematics they never hassle you about athletics.) I've served my local Teachers Association as President, Secretary, and Head Negotiator, jobs even more thankless than teaching itself.

That is not to say my efforts have been under-appreciated. I'm thankful that I have worked with many fine people who respected me and my work. I have encountered every sort of pupil you can imagine as well as their parents, guardians, advocates, and adversaries. I've even been in the same place long enough that my former students are now my colleagues and/or the parents of my current students. Overall, I've been quite fortunate. I look back on my previous 29 years fondly. I've made many, many friends, and only a handful (if that) of enemies, and learned amazing things about myself, life, the universe, and everything. The young people I have taught--or at least had in class, one never knows if they get "taught" anything--have been a continuing source of inspiration. When I think of all the things I learned from them, what I may have been able to teach them seems pretty small by comparison.

I have 180 teaching days left in my career. That's a little less than 300 calendar days. "Mr. O'Connor" has been a pretty good gig. I know I will never be more than that guy in the tie in chem lab to some people, and that's fine. I hope it's a pleasant memory, if it's a memory at all. I worked hard, and tried to do my best. I succeeded brilliantly, failed spectacularly, and mostly, like all of us, muddled along between the two without losing my mind in the process. I've had enough of this work, and am ready for the next phase of life. Thanks to all of you who helped me along the way, and if I was able to help any of you, I'm happy.

Oh, I'm going to throw a hell of a party when this thing is done--you are all invited!