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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Before and After (05/14/09)

TITLE: Cranky
By Mary McLeary


I realized at fifty-nine that sixty would be awesome because I could retire. On my sixtieth birthday I went to school as usual, had a birthday party with my class of first graders, stayed outside to play with them all afternoon and started retirement the next day. Before my decision I was probably the crankiest person in my building. After I made the decision, I was as sweet as pie.

Before my decision, grade-level meetings drove me nuts. Once a month the curriculum coordinator, grant facilitator and the principal would meet with the teachers around a huge table in a quiet room and proceed to tell us what the Central Office had told them to tell us that they needed.

I had once counted the names on the list of Central Office staff. There were forty names, and apparently none of them could do their job without requiring the classroom teachers to do at least two things per month for them. Although I taught first grade, my math skills were adequate enough for me to realize I didn’t want to do eighty more things each month for grown ups. I would grit my teeth and write the added requirements to my already full calendar. After my decision, I still gritted my teeth, but I only pretended to write.

Like most teachers I am conscientious about doing what I’m asked to do in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, the Central Office often asked for things they later realized they didn’t need after all, but I would have already done the deed before receiving the e-mail saying, “Never mind.” After I decided to retire, I developed the Rule of Three.

The first time I was asked to complete a form or return fifty pounds of books to the office, I would smile and nod. That made the person making the request very happy. I would then wait to see if the request was on the up and up. If the second request came, I made serious preparations that required no physical labor. I saved the physical labor for the third request which hardly ever came.

This worked out really well since I was never upset any more when my poor superiors came to tell me they really didn’t need the ten page report or that the fifty pounds of books they had asked me to relocate actually were better off on the shelf in my room where they had been stored for the past eight years. The Rule of Three provided a win-win situation.

Before I “aged up” I would laugh and say, “When I become the oldest, crankiest person in the building I’ll retire.” Well I was ,so I did. I could identify with Weezer in Steel Magnolias, when she said “I ain’t as nice as I used to be”, but in His graciousness God still provided opportunities for me to teach.

Three grandchildren who lived nine hours away moved twenty minutes down the road. Just this morning I taught the five year old how to plant flowers in the early morning sunshine. I taught the eight year old that whipped cream can be squirted directly into the mouth from an aerosol can, and my nearly teen granddaughter seems to be learning, from me, that it is important to be lovely on the inside because the outside fades.

Our little country church hasn’t had a children’s class for at least twelve years. One Sunday five kids showed up and I became their teacher. What a privilege to teach those Bible lessons!

It is hard to believe how quickly this year has passed. I think I set the alarm twice. I’m on my second cup of coffee while my teacher friends are having reading lessons. Fridays don’t seem too far away. Every day is a vacation.

When my friends ask, “How is retirement,” I try not to gush, but I do say, “It is awesome!”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 05/21/09
I loved this! I'm also a schoolteacher, about to retire, and CRANKY.
Sharon Kane05/26/09
I loved the voice; I loved her solution to dealing with bureaucratic bungling; I loved her use of retirement; I loved the title. Great writing!