Saturday, May 12, 2012

Time Flies--Whether You're Having Fun or Not

I have come to realize that time has a way of disappearing before you are even aware of it. I started a post a couple of weeks ago intending to reflect on the VEA Convention which was held in Virginia Beach April 26-28, but I got busy and left it unfinished. Here I am, two weeks later, and it seems foolish to write about the convention which is now a distant memory for those who attended and a non-event for those who didn't.

As I sit here, though, it dawns on me that those two weeks got spent doing a number of different things. I spent the week after the convention attending the NEA Super Week in Washington, DC. That week included a round of different meetings with different groups of people who get together to talk about the goals and aspirations of the NEA, the realities that face those who run the NEA and the leaders of the state affiliates, and the members of the NEA Board of Directors who have the responsibility for setting policy and moving a balanced budget to the NEA Representative Assembly which will be convening in July--in just a few weeks, actually.

This past week was spent in meetings, catching up on emails, writing letters, planning other meetings, and just generally being available after being pretty much out of the office for the previous 10 days.

All this activity takes time, and sometimes the time seems to fly by while at other times, it seems to drag. What I have discovered about time is that it flies whether you're having any fun or not which is something I have grown fond of saying as I have gotten toward the end of my term as President of the VEA.

I have also been doing a lot of reflection on the four years since I became President of the VEA. I knew when I took office in August 2008 that four years wasn't a lot of time, and I have worked hard every day of my two terms to do my very best by the VEA and for the membership as well as for the students we all teach. I feel a deep responsibility with regard to wanting to leave the VEA in better shape than I found it, and I am disheartened in many ways as I recognize that that might not be the case even though it is largely through no fault of my own.

When I ran for the position, I knew there were challenges ahead of us professionally and organizationally, but I honestly had no way of knowing the breadth of those challenges and I also had no way of predicting the economic challenges which would exasperate the other challenges including membership challenges. The economic melt down caused by Wall Street and bankers and hedge fund operators with no conscience could not have been foreseen. The resulting contraction of state and local government, the impact on letting go new teachers and driving down personnel at every level has had a profound effect on our organization, and the effects are still being felt and probably will be for the foreseeable future. So, as I prepare to wind up my term as President of the VEA, I do so with a whole host of mixed feelings.

Some of those feelings include extreme fatigue, I will admit. I am so tired, in fact, that I have decided against going back to the classroom, and I will instead begin my retirement after a long and wonderful 37-year career in public education in Virginia. I am going to take a few months for rest and relaxation and then I will decide what next adventure I wish to tackle. I know it will have to do with schools and students in some way...I just don't know exactly how.

In the meantime, I continue to worry about the course that has been set for Virginia by the current policy makers who seem to be forging ahead with anti-teacher friendly policies that will make recruiting and retaining the finest teachers in the country more difficult. We need them for sure, but are we creating an environment that will send the young ones packing to other states where they will have some sort of job security, better pay, and perhaps more welcoming legislators? I wonder what I would have done if I were about to embark on my career now, in 2012, instead of when I began in 1975? Would I make a different career choice? Would I want to move to another state if I wanted to teach? I don't know the answers, but they are worth pondering, I believe.

What I do know is that it doesn't seem possible that the 37 years that I have dedicated to public service have gone by as quickly as they have, and if they flew, you can imagine how the four years at the VEA seem like they have slipped by in the blink of the eye. Most of the time has been well spent and it has been, for the most part, what I would call fun. The best part is that I have no regrets because I know that I have done the best I knew to do with the knowledge, skills, and resources I had at the time. I wouldn't do anything differently. What a blessing that is.

Until next time.