One year ago today, I retired from a great job and started a new adventure that some call retirement. I could write several pages on what I have been up to this past year, but I have already done that, and many of those pages are on this blog in the form of over 60 posts.
As a I sit in my recliner (doesn’t that sound like a retiree activity?) with the Orange Bowl on mute in the background, I want to reflect for a few minutes on the year that is nearly complete. This year has been a completely new chapter in my life and as I think about all that has transpired, all the change that has taken place, and all that I have learned, I keep coming back to the prayer that started this year in motion.
My cancer diagnosis in November of 2012 started a period of soul searching for me that led to this past year. Cancer was never on my calendar, agenda, schedule or life plan. In fact, the cancer I ended up being diagnosed with was one I had never heard of before being told I had it. I had absolutely ZERO risk factors for this type of cancer and after getting over the initial shock of the diagnosis and figuring out the treatment plan, many of my prayers turned to Why? Why me? Not in a feeling sorry for myself Why, but a Why that leads to a What? What am I supposed to learn from this? What am I supposed to do with whatever time I have left? Again, not a feeling sorry for myself or defeatist mentality, but with an open mind and heart.
Have you ever heard “Be Careful What you Pray for?”. God answered the Why for me and the answer was to quit relying on myself and start relying on Him. A student asked me this past semester what led me to retirement and I said that I had been living my life in three partitions: 1) I let God drive one=third of my life. 2) I drove a third of my life with my own road map. 3) And one-third of my life was partially being led by God, but I was a pretty annoying backseat driver. My Why prayer was answered with “Turn all your partitions over to Me and I will provide you the directions.”
After the Why, the What I would do feel neatly into place. Many of my What activities, I would not have envisioned several years ago. Who would have thought that the introvert would enjoy visiting complete strangers in the hospital and be good at it? Who would have thought that I would enjoy mentoring people about how to approach their health journey at the point of diagnosis? I could list many more, but you get the point.
Some things, however, do not change and if I can make it to 9:00 pm on New Year’s Eve, that will be about it for me for the year!
Happy New Year!
A Boomer In Transition
I just finished my first year of teaching. I think most of you know that I was adjunct professor of investments at Bethel University the past two semesters. A total of 63 students between the two semesters and no one dropped my class! Because I am a rookie, I don’t know if that is usual or unusual, but I will claim it as one data point of success in my rookie year and use it in my contract negotiations.
Seriously, I have been thinking for the last couple of weeks about what I learned in my rookie year of teaching and have come up with 5 main things:
- Teaching is hard work. This surprised me a little because I figured I could just waltz in and because of my industry experience that it would be easy to translate into the classroom experience. Wrong. I figure that I spent at least 10 hours preparing for each of the 80 class sessions I taught over this rookie year. There were a few lectures that I probably spent 20 hours each because I just could not figure out how to teach it in a way that students would understand. I believe that this is the first time in my life I have earned less than minimum wage! In fairness, I could have dialed it in, but I rewrote the entire curriculum the first semester and then made significant tweaks the second semester based on learnings the first go-around. I have no regrets on taking this approach.
- Every group of students is different. What worked the first semester, did not always work the second semester. I struggled with this. I asked feedback from other professors. I admitted that somehow I got dumber the second semester than the first semester. Experienced professors laughed at me or with me, not sure which, and then told me that every class is different. The chemistry and dynamics of a group of students can be night and day different. I found this to be true after only two semesters and this lead me to significant tweaks in approach and teaching style for this second group of students.
- Teachers are Confidence Builders. This is not something I though about it initially preparing my curriculum, but I eventually learned is a very important element of teaching. I had more examples of this my second semester and one student in particular really struggled with confidence in the first half of the semester. This student did not believe they would do well in this class and by the end of the course had not only mastered the material, but had shown remarkable improvement in confidence and it was one of the joys of the semester for me to experience.
- The Curriculum is Not The Most Important Thing. Going into this rookie year, I though the content was what mattered. This is why I spent so much time coming up with the “perfect” curriculum. Wrong. The content matters, but it is not the most important thing. Building confidence, preparing students for the work world, helping them figure out how to optimize their unique human capital and coming alongside them as sort of a life coach are the most important in my opinion.
- The pay is barely measurable, but the rewards are immeasurable. I shed a lot of tears this rookie year, and they were all tears of joy. I was able to experience in just two semesters students who achieved more than they believed they could achieve. I was able to experience students who made almost weekly progress, you could practically chart it, in getting themselves prepared for the world of work. I was able to see students who figured out who they are, what they want to be, not always from a career perspective, but the kind of person they want to be and that was really cool to observe. I was able to help about a dozen students land jobs over my rookie year and that was also deeply satisfying.
Now I get a semester off teaching this class to focus on mentoring students that I have met over my rookie year. I will be back teaching in the Fall and will probably still be a rookie!
A Boomer In Transition
Ironically, the introvert in our family had the biggest party thus far in our new home.
Last night, we had 18 people over who have become the unofficial core of our bladder cancer support group. Two of these folks I have known prior to our support group launch of 8 months ago as they were new friends I got to know through my peer-to-peer mentoring activities. The other 16 are all new friends, from all over the Twin Cities area, with ages ranging from 30 to (I’m not allowed to say), and in professions of attorney, software developer, printing press operator, aerospace engineer, retired military, and just plain retired. Our common bond is that we have all been touched in some way by bladder cancer. Some like me are survivors, and others are still going through active treatment.
The cool thing about a support group like this is that this common bond brings out a degree of transparency that is almost immediate and unlike most other groups I have been involved in. For example, I just had my cancer checkup two days ago and I can share with this group that I am only retaining 12 cc’s of urine in my neobladder and they get what a big deal that is. We can also make fun of the fact that we need two or three bathrooms available because all of us have “bladder issues.”
I am also grateful that Tammie and Erin helped out with the food and logistics and were able to experience what has become an important part of my life. Still amazing to me that none of this was on my radar screen three plus years ago . . .
A Boomer In Transition (and adaptable introvert)
Does anyone else have trouble with technology? Last semester I was in this very steep learning curve in order to get 40 class lectures on PowerPoint. In case you were wondering, it is possible to teach old dogs new tricks, and by the end of the semester I had mastered transitions, fades, pictures and imbedded video’s. Then the old dog wandered back. For whatever reason, I have had a lot of trouble this semester running video’s imbedded in presentations at school. When I build the presentations at home, they work just fine, but I guess there is a stronger firewall at school that blocks them.
So, just to show that old dogs who learn new tricks can go back to old ways, I finally decided to strip out most of the “cool” stuff, rely less on PowerPoint, and do more speaking from the heart, which is what I wanted to do in the first place! This week, I did my last two lectures for the semester and I feel like they were very good (unbiased opinion, of course). The reason: I simplified the message and focused only on what I wanted the students to remember 5 minutes after they left the classroom. I added back more stories (some of which were even true) into my lectures, and worried a little less about dumping lot’s of content on them.
Going into this week, I had been a little frustrated that a few students have been so immobilized by the stress of a busy end to a semester and finals lurking, that they were starting to check out. Yesterday, at the beginning of class, I asked if I was correct in my view that a lot of students are stressed , behind on projects, running out of time, and/or fighting off colds and I got a lot of affirmative head nods. I then prayed for the students before my lecture that they would have endurance, strength, focus, good use of time, health and the peace that God is in control and can help them through the next couple weeks before Christmas vacation. It was probably the best thing I did all semester.
A Boomer In Transition