Life As I Know It: Saved by the bell from retirement stagnation

So, I’m now keeping mind and body busy with the next thing in my life after being self-employed for nearly 30 years. And apparently, that next thing is going to involve substitute school teaching.

Once again, the readers of the Sunday Record-Eagle are beginning to shake their heads. Half of you are shaking your heads sideways as if to say, “Have at it, Rob, but I wouldn’t stand in front of a classroom full of gently sleeping golden retrievers, let alone a class of rambunctious students.”

Hopefully, the other half of readers are also shaking their heads. Only this shaking is up and down, as if to say, “I bet that guy would be a great sub. He’s raised a few kids, has a basic rapport with today’s youth and he probably can manage a group of people for 50 minutes, including kids.”

It’s important that I make a distinction here; the skills to substitute teach, I’ve got. The skills to teach what the person being subbed for has, not so much. In no way should professional educators perceive from this column that some guy in the newspaper thinks anybody with a pulse, a pair of khakis and the classroom key on a lanyard can do their job.

Not at all.

At least, not this guy in the newspaper.

My objective is to execute their instructions for one day and to keep the momentum that they’ve worked very hard to achieve throughout the school year moving in a similar direction.

Appropriately, my first gig was a day in a middle school classroom and the class was working on redividing the continent of Africa. In other words, erase all the boundary lines to countries including Egypt, Albania, Somalia, Suriname and Yemen and start over using current-day population, natural resource and climate data. FYI, three of those countries aren’t on the continent of Africa ... so there.

Point being that as the students applied their brains to the project, so did this substitute teacher who can now tell you where else on the globe to look for Albania, Suriname and Yemen.

Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you that moving to the classroom has been a goal of mine since the moment we decided to get out of the world of real estate title insurance. What I will admit to, though, is an envy for the school year calendar.

Of potential next careers considered over the last couple of years, none accommodated my desires to continue to call my own shots and do things like playing golf and caring for grandchildren like substitute teaching does.

I mean, even if I wanted to work during June, July and August (which I don’t), no schools are looking for substitutes. And, again with an appreciative nod toward teachers and school administrators, the school day for substitutes ends with the 3 o'clock bell. This leaves plenty of time for rounds of golf once the days get longer and courses open.

The best part for me, though, is that I expect these various schools, classrooms, staff and students to provide just the kind of inspiration that I crave. I watched my own parents retire from their jobs and, more or less, sit still. With any luck, my foreseeable future — surrounded by scenarios both frightening and enlightening — will be grist for the writing mill.

As nearly every classroom wall so far has reminded me, “life is a journey, not a destination."

Contact Rob Ford at

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