I had not thought about graduation at Nash Community College until I saw the article in the Rocky Mount Telegram the morning after the May 16 commencement. State Treasurer Janet Cowell gave the address.
I would like to have heard her speech. She’s the women in charge of investing my retirement money. Anything she has to say, I want to hear, especially if it concerns the health of the state employees’ retirement fund, my main source of independent income these days.
But since I retired in December, I have been almost completely out of the Nash Community College loop. Graduation, an event I attended for the 20 years that I taught there, slipped by me unnoticed. Oh well.
It’s almost scary the way I have discarded my previous life as a community college instructor. I have not returned to visit my former officemate, a fact that makes me feel a little guilty. After all, we shared our lives five days a week for more than a decade as we roomed together in Room 4206, D Building. Somehow, though, I think it would be too sad for me to see someone new at my old desk, especially when that someone is a smart, pretty woman half my age.
Also, I’ve simply moved on. I’m busy with travel, grandchildren, cleaning out closets and painting projects. Only in my dreams do I spend much time thinking about my former days in the classroom.
I guess I’ll always have the teacher nightmares, the ones where it’s the first day of class and I’m totally unprepared. I have no syllabus or roster. I’m late, and I can’t remember which classroom I’m supposed to be teaching in.
Recently, I had another version of a teacher dream. I was in the correct classroom this time, but the students weren’t. They were hanging out in the hallway, refusing to come in the door. They weren’t angry or rebellious; they were just simply ignoring any attempt I made to get them to enter the room and sit down so that we could begin class. They were chatting among themselves and playing with their cellphones.
In this dream, I finally lashed out at them in frustration.
“The problem here is I’ve been too nice,” I scolded. “I’m giving a pop quiz in exactly two minutes and anyone who’s not in this room to take it will get a zero. In fact, every class will now begin with a test.”
I can’t recall whether these words got the students’ attention and cooperation, but I do think this dream is a sign that I retired at the right time. Students deserve someone who hasn’t used up her supply of nice ... and remembers when it’s time for graduation.
Patsy Pridgen is a retired community college English instructor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.