Old | Mark’s Remarks


My friends and I decided to attend a seminar on teacher retirement. You see, we are all in close proximity to that magic year when we will hang up our chalk and put away our grade books for the last time. 

Actually, none of us use chalk anymore nor do we use our hard copy grade books as much as we used to. Grades are online and you have the option whether to use a hard copy or not.  

I still do. But chalk has long been relegated to a museum piece type object. We all have dry erase boards now.

So we pull up to the location for the retirement seminar, still stunned that we’ve all reached the point that we would consider coming to a retirement seminar.

Yet here we are.

As often happens with a group of teachers, none of us has paid any attention to the handy email we received on the specifics. 

Thankfully, though, someone in the car knows what city we were supposed to go to and has a reasonable idea what time we are supposed to get there.

But nobody knows exactly where to go. We have to find the building.

So, we pull up, as I said, and laugh at the thought of being so stinkin’ irresponsible while we all teach students, every day, to be responsible. 

“Look, there are some old people,” says someone in the group. “Let’s follow them.”

So, we all jump out of the car, fancying ourselves as young folks as we dutifully follow the old people who are headed to the seminar location. We decide to shuffle behind them slowly so they won’t be embarrassed at our speedy walking.

They must have started teaching long before us and have planned to stay in the profession a lot longer than we do. I mean, look at them.

Do we look that old? 

We saunter into the auditorium of this retirement, laughing and cutting up as if we are young hooligans.  The older teachers give us disapproving glances. We settle into our seats and I can tell we are all looking around at all the old people.  They, in turn, are admiring our youth and politely whispering that these young, vibrant teachers can’t be old enough to retire.

One older teacher walks in. She has to be at least close to 75. She looks worn out. She squints at the numbers on the auditorium seats, although we don’t have tickets or anything.  She wearily plops down in the seat. I feel as though I need to assist her when she leaves.

We sit through a 45-minute seminar on what to start doing now, and find that people who are as young as 42 should start talking about their retirement with the retirement folks in Springfield. We look around. No one raises their hand when he asks if anyone is under 45.

Some people look at us, expecting us to be that young. But we are as honest as we are youthful looking.

Then the question-and-answer session begins.  People ask specific questions. The TRS rep starts asking people when they will turn 55, or how many years they have left to teach, or who is over 55.  

He asks if anyone will be 60 when they retire.

As the rep moves around the room, we soon realize many of the old people in the room are the same age as us.  Or just a few years older.

Yes, we look as old as they do. Yes, we’ve been teaching as long as they have. Yes. 

We leave the seminar and I can tell that some of us are catching our reflection in the window glass as we walk by. People don’t look as old in the reflection of a window glass as they do in a photograph or a mirror.

I’m glad there are no mirrors around. And thank goodness no pictures were taken.

Sure, we are refreshed and excited about our retirement prospects within the next few years. 

But I can tell, after our dose of reality that we just have received, we walk a little slower going back to the car.

How did this “old” thing happen?

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