Back to School Keeps Me Young at Heart

Some of my old high school classmates retired from teaching this year and though I envy them, each fall I think ‘oh heck, I can make it one more year.’

international festival at school

international festival at school

My students keep me going.

Last spring a sixth grade student, who loves PE, raced from the primary building to the gym door.  She blurted out with enthusiasm. “You look just like my granny!”

Taken aback, for I never considered myself the age of a grandma, I asked incredulously.

“Really! How old is your granny?”

“She is 70. And just like you.  Tall and fit.  And she still plays basketball every week.”

I burst out laughing. Go, granny go.

Should I be insulted that she sees me old enough to be a granny or proud to know she considers me fit enough to still play my favorite ball game?

talking tactics at the alumni game

talking tactics at the alumni game

A graduating senior told me she remembered having me in first grade.  Ah yes, in my early days at our school I had to teach every grade between first and twelfth grade.

Until moving to Switzerland, I have never stayed in one place, but now I have been at my school long enough to be one of the elders. Students that I once had in class are returning to campus to teach!

Aging seems to be a popular theme with all my students. A favorite 10th grader gave me a homemade gift. On a Scandinavian Airline travel bag designed to carry official papers hanging on a strap around my neck he printed, “Old Timer coming through”.

“ It’s to help you keep from losing your dark glasses so much,” he told me.

But one of the most endearing compliments was a card made by my 6th grade PE class last June.

Dear Mrs. Mackenzie

You have been the best PE teacher we ever had. Whenever someone didn’t have a kit (PE uniform) instead of yelling at them, you would give them a job. You have helped everyone in our class improve stuff they couldn’t do. Everyone wants to have you as a PE teacher in secondary.  We are so attached to you that if you retire or go somewhere we would follow you. We did not expect to learn so much. But we actually learned something. We all learned millions of games.

When I ask what my colleagues miss most after retirement, their answer is unanimous, “The kids. And the buzz.”

Our school halls are definitely buzzing with the energy of bright minds from around the globe, eager to tackle the future challenges facing Planet Earth.

So every year, though my body creaks a little louder, my joints lock up a bit tighter and a part of me longs to retire from the relentless demands of teaching, the kids keep me young at heart and fill my days with joy and laughter. Yup, teaching is one big ball game.

Posted in education, inspiration, relationships, social view.


  1. Ah yes, the La Chat kids are really special. I miss them too! How long have you been there now? Can’t believe it is as long as you imply here. I was there for more than 13 years, but started way back in mny twenties, so I was often viewed as the spring chicken for many years. When I left La Chat I stated with pride that I had spent one third of my life there! I still remember the sights, sounds and smells – especially of the sports hall and changing rooms! I remember the orange leather gym mats, and the dark green office doors. But most of all, I remember the sounds of chattering children full of vim and verve as they lined up outside the glass doors of the sports hall. It all seems like yesterday, but nine years on, thanks for bringing it back to the front of my mind. Children wanting you to teach them are a clear indication that you can’t retire just yet!!! You always had (and still have) so much to offer them in their learning journeys, so hang on in there girl!! Hugs, Rach xx

    • Rach…can’t believe you have been gone 9 years already. It seems like just yesterday we were swimming laps side by side in the pool or I was up in your dance studio trying to follow your lead in step aerobics. I learned so much from you…I still use your lesson plans for gymnastics! We still have green doors and orange mats and the glass doors of the sports hall are filled with fingerprints of eager children. But had you stayed here, I would have tried to turn your lovely daughters into basketball players! ha

  2. Hi Pat!! We were at ISU together, and I have loved reading your blogs. This one was very special as I did retire at the end of the school year, but for a very special reason. I am a Grandmother!! I have four children, and my oldest, Amy, and her husband had a baby boy in March.
    She is also a teacher (High School English) one town away from us. So, for this chapter of my life I am taking care of Ricky three days a week (he’s in Daycare the other two) and then I have two days to sub!! I am going to be subbing at the school I taught at, and also they need a PE sub at the high school my husband teaches at. So, I feel like I have the best of both worlds for right now. There is nothing like rocking a grandchild to sleep and then watching them smile at you when they wake up. And, there is nothing like the “buzz of the students” as you said…and I can still experience that!
    Your post made me smile…what an awesome teacher you must be, and you have had so many travel experiences to have gained wisdom from to pass on. Best to you in this school year!!!! Kendra Fischl (Knudtzon)

    • Of course I remember you my dear Cousin from ISU! So happy you took the time to write and reconnect. I can’t think of any better reason to retire than yours… to be a grandma and babysit your lovely little Ricky. You are so lucky to have the best of both. You can remain part of the teaching buzz and yet build those lifelong bonds with your grandson.
      Keep in touch!

  3. This piece will certainly touch hearts…especially teachers’ hearts.I know what an impact you are making on young lives with your compassion, insight, warmth and humor. As I start my 33rd year as a high school educator and face my own retirement in two years, I have begun to replay moments from my career and am already getting a bit sentimental. Even with all the mandates and stressors of this profession, it is an awesome job and I have been privileged to teach so many wonderful young people who have taught me so much in return.
    Continue influencing and touching your students’ lives like you have been doing, Pat. You are the kind of teacher who does this profession proud.

  4. Pat, I am so touched by your story. I think I would frame that priceless note from your student and hang it in a prominent place! It reminds me of how important and special it is to get paid for doing what you love to do. It’s not a job, it’s a calling. I certainly can relate. Although I love retirement and I was ready to leave my beloved nursing career, I still miss my patients who made me feel like I made a positive difference in their lives. I do have the satisfaction of knowing I gave it my all and made a difference when I could. You’ll know when it’s time. Until then, enjoy!

    • Yes, that letter will go on my inspiration shelf to reread on bad days. I am sure that you miss your nursing career, but I know that you are still nurturing people through your writing! In some ways it is just as hard because you don’t see the end results, but trust that you are still helping others heal through your gift with words!

  5. Dear Other Pat –
    What a supreme compliment from your student that letter is. YES, keep on teaching~!!! It keeps you young. Die in office, as they say. I am still “on-call” as a tech writer but am getting less and less opportunities as budgets get tighter. There are fewer staff doing more work, albeit substandard, but that’s all that’s required of “government work”, hate to say. Those who do honor to our tax payers dollars and have pride in their work are few and far between.

    So … my insult for the day over with, guess I’ll get on with my substandard stuff here at home.

    Love, TOP

    • Yes that letter is a keeper and a nice reminder to keep on keeping on. Can’t imagine that you have the energy to take on any tech writing assignments with the health issues you are facing. What projects are you working on in your personal writing?

  6. Pat, the world needs devoted teachers like you. I am so happy you are still in the game. I am curious, do you teach in English or do you have to speak German and Italian too?

    I always dreamed I would live and work in Europe but find I am quite content here in the midwest too. But I am envious of your glamorous international life!!

    • Thanks Judy. The international life is not quite so glamorous as you imagine as there is also the day to day grind, but the travel opportunities are endless. Since we live in the French speaking part of Switzerland, I have to teach in English and some French. It is always humbling to find out a lot of my students speak 3 or 4 languages!

  7. Pat, while you are still working full-on, you might keep an eye out to things you could do part-time after retirement that might still involve the kids, the sport, and the “buzz.” I think we’re coming into an age where we recognize it’s not healthy to go from ALL to NOTHING in one retirement ceremony. You’re obviously a success in your field – why not try to find a way to continue to share your talent and expertise with the kids and educational establishment in later years, but just on a less demanding schedule (if that’s what you would like to do!)

    • Good suggestion Lynne! I am sure I will find away to keep involved with kids. They keep me young at heart! After he officially “retired, my grandpa remained the oldest active coach in college football.

  8. sister,
    Thanks for sharing and reminding us teachers why we love teaching Most days!
    Kids comments are priceless! Perhaps another book idea!
    Keep on caring, they obviously “feel it”!

  9. Hi Pat, if teaching is keeping you young, make the most of your fountain of youth, and continue to share your secret with others. Be blessed.

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