retirement partyI was touched by a retirement party held Thursday for me, a surprise that happened on the same day that I entered my last student onto the database, and had my last grading meeting. There was a poster, two large cakes, a feast with 17th St. barbecue; in short, they went all out.
There was what is traditionally called "a roast", but you would have to characterize it as mild; colleagues agreed with me that it was actually sweet, and it was clear how much I would be missed after eighteen years and how much I had contributed to the place.
It's bittersweet of course to clean out my office and dump literally hundreds of pounds of old course files, not to mention grading sheets, articles of interest, printed-out webpages, etc. To some degree I am reminded of both good times and bad. It has been enormously difficult to keep up the workload, but at the same time I've always loved all my colleagues and have never been sorry that I chose this career. I did find that, having gone into teaching college ESL, it was harder than I expected to simply move over, or switch to high school, or go over to a junior college, etc. In the modern world, if you get a decent job, you tend to keep it. And that gives you experience in a single field. I find this with our search committee too; we hire those who have done like what we do.
Back to CESL; it was a great place, a great experience. People stop by and I find myself saying: I have nothing bad to say. The worst I can say is, they tried to overwork me. But that happens anyway. I got plenty of advice for my next gig which will involve teaching linguistics and getting into the field of text linguistics (which needs a proper name). One was: Keep an open mind, keep exploring new things. I was given poetry books and a couple of Funny Times for good measure. I took up the hallway for a weekend. A few tears were shed. I was proud to say: they noticed, they honored me, they did me right. I was part of a large retiring class (over 300 retired on that same day, more than three times the usual), but my party had its own distinct flavor & I wouldn't trade it for any other. They even got me a huge carrot cake, but, with all the roast, and the talking and all, it was a while before I could even get a bite of it.
One thing that was mentioned was the unruly appearance of both me, and my weblogs, which I suppose have gained some notoriety both at SIUC and around the field. One thing that happens is that people come in looking for information about SIUC before they come to work here, so all the teachers who have come to work at SIUC since I got here, knew me before they knew anything else about SIUC, and, when the web site was deleted, the blogs became even more the only window on what CESL was like. Knowing that the web was the biggest window on us and our life as the world sees it, I always tried to keep it accurate, current, full of useful pictures. But unruly it was, and still is. What can you do? I try to keep useful things on them. As I hand over the CESL ones, I wish everyone well and hope I can truly share and even give away ownership of them. They deserve a new look, a new lease on life.
My office is about half cleaned out; it has maybe twelve or fifteen hours to go. Fortunately nobody is pressuring me intensely; also, it's presently 105 degrees in the shade, wrong time to be driving back and forth with boxes of books and cultural artifacts. Everything must go. Anyone want some plants? Coffee pot? Old CESL soccer trophy from the golden era?