John interviews Liz Burdick

John: You retired from 30 years of teaching without ambivalence, and at your earliest possible convenience. The date had been marked on your calendar for 30 years.
Liz: That’s true.

John: You’d think after 30 years of doing something, you’d just keep doing it and maybe not even notice, but you noticed. And you stopped.
Liz: About ten years before I retired, I started waking up in the morning and asking, “What would this day look like if I were retired?” When I started teaching, I honestly didn’t think I’d last more than one year.

John: Because of kids, I get it.
Liz: No! Well, yes. It’s the amount of responsibility, making sure 24 kids are in your sight range and learning something all day long. I was and remain very easily overwhelmed. I’d constantly leave my purse in the teacher’s room. When I left home in the morning, I often took my keys and yours. And I often lost track of children.

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John: You actually lost some children.
Liz: True

John: Put ‘em on the wrong buses.
Liz: Nothing fatal.

John: Buses to nowhere, Liz.
Liz: Just horribly embarrassing. One day, I sat underneath my desk for an hour weeping because I lost a kid.

John: And yet you got tenure.
Liz: I was sort of hoping I wouldn’t. But, alas, I was too creative. I was so far outside the box, I needed a box.

John: And here you are, a Mt. Rushmore teacher in New Paltz history.
Liz: [laughs hysterically]

John: You retired in June 2019, essentially reclining right into the pocket of the Covid era of isolation and enforced reflection. Big change.
Liz: The first thing I did was find some children to tutor on Zoom.

John: This will be your second approaching autumn without the dread of school in the air and leaves of your heart. How is it different?
Liz: I dream often of teaching. I drop my class off at gym, and then forgot about them. Hours pass before I remember. I search through the dark weird labyrinth of dream school. I find two or three students, lose them, find a few more. When I wake up, I miss teaching.


Read more installments of Village Voices by John Burdick.