By Barry Lane
I met this guy at the Newark airport years ago. I remember feeling both puzzled and offended by his tee-shirt. Puzzled, because I have never really understood the purpose of retirement and offended, because he appeared to know and was taunting me. I approached him and asked for a photo of his shirt and then I confided in him my bewilderment.
“I don’t really understand what it means to be retired,” I asked with great earnestness.
“What do you do when you are retired?”
He paused a moment and then looked me right in the eye and said,
“I do whatever I want to do, don’t I?”
Yes, of course, that’s it. That’s retirement, and by this definition I have been retired for years now, along with the thousands of dedicated teachers I have met over the years at reading association meetings, like KSRA. There is no other place they want to be, but in the classroom. These are not normal people who work a boring job and relax on the weekends with their family. They are not extrinsically motivated by money or vacations or golden parachutes, (though all bets are off when free picture books are in the equation) . Many work in a profession for far less material reward then they could be getting in other less meaningful jobs. But they have this spark in their eyes and a passion for learning and children that is undeniable. To say they love their job would be an understatement. They don’t even see it as a job. They see it a calling. They see it as a life.