Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Certain Slant of Light

People have been asking me all summer what it feels like to be retired, and I've responded that it feels like any other summer. Today is the first day of school, so now I know. Right now, there's an emptiness. This will change, I know.

I'll probably go for a bike ride on the "going to school" route, because I know it so well. Last night I wrote a little note to my colleagues, but I didn't send it, because we all need to move on. I keep it here, to remember: 
A Certain Slant of Light

Emily Dickenson used that phrase a long time ago, and for me it it defines the current season - fall, football, and the start of the new school year. It also means, like many of you, I have been having back to school dreams/nightmares. You don't do something for 31 years and expect your body/mind to all of a sudden stop. :)

I am with you all in spirit as you start the new school year. Give your kids an extra smile or hug for me. I wish you many smiles and sweet moments on your first day, and every day of the school year. 

Missing you and wishing you all the best - Mark
PM Update: Made it through the day. Rode my bike almost to school and home. Neighborhoods were oh so very quiet. Saw a few parent types out for walks. I imagine there were some feelings of relief. Highlight of the day was selling my first banjo to a student who used to go to my school. Life goes on, sometimes in surprising ways.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Zero more days to be a teacher. Made it. Whew.
Thought this would be a good way to close this out.

 Joe, my third grade classroom mascot, said it best for me, at the end of my 31 year teaching career. He was the last to share at Show and Tell on the last day of school. He got a big round of applause.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


One day left. My last day of teaching kids was Friday. Monday will be my last day under contract as a teacher.

At this moment on Sunday, I'm physically exhausted and emotionally numb. Hoping to get in to school today to finish cleaning out my room, because really, I need more than a day. It is amazing what a person can accumulate over the years.

The West Seattle Blog just ran a really nice story, with pics, about my retirement:
1 more teacher farewell: Arbor Heights Elementary’s Mark Ahlness Many thanks to the good friends there.

Here are a few pictures from the end of the school year:

I think this will not be the post where I thank everybody. That'll be "0". And then there are replies needed on Facebook, email, etc. I will do that Monday. Must get the physical work taken care of.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Two days left in my teaching career. Tomorrow is my last day in the classroom. Monday I'll be cleaning out my room.

I have been dreading my last day in the classroom for a while now. Ending the year is hard every year. I always have lumps in my throat, sleepless nights, weepy eyes, a frequently non-functioning voice, and so on.

The last day means: report cards, speaking (briefly) at the school awards assembly, helping my kids through saying goodbye to our classroom, giving away more of my stuff to my kids (lots of clay projects tomorrow), and going to a staff party right after the kids leave.

That's at the end of a regular year, This one is different.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Three days left being a teacher.

After an incredibly intense day in the classroom, giving away just about everything but the kitchen sink to my kids, I settled in at the computer at home to work on the Jr. Seahawk Newsletter for the last time.

It's the student newsletter, something I inherited in my third year of teaching at Arbor Heights - which means I've done it for 18 years. It was started by another teacher, Gretchen Thompson, my first year there, so this year has been Volume 21.

I have billed it for many years as "The oldest continuously published elementary school student newspaper on the Internet!" Nobody has ever questioned that, because it's true. It first appeared online, on the school's website, in 1994.


Just for kicks and giggles I decided to count all the editions. 144. At an average of 4 hours production time per issue, that works out to 576 hours. Roughly 16 school weeks. Count the several from 2002 and 2004 I have on my computer, never got uploaded (but will this summer), and we're looking at 18 school weeks, easily.

Half a year's worth of work, sitting at my computer, getting student writing edited and online.

Tomorrow I have to get there extra early to run off 400 copies. For the last time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Four days left to be a teacher. So many things to write about, and so very little time.

I guess what struck me and stuck with me was connecting with my colleagues today. Not the people I work with every day, but my virtual colleagues. I let the news drop in the Classblogmeister list that I was retiring, as I was letting David Warlick know about a sluggish response on my classroom blog. Several very nice responses followed, wishing me well, and thanking me for this or that over the years. From really, really fantastic teachers whom I admire greatly. So it meant a lot.

But it struck me that the people I work with every day really have no idea what I do online, what I have accomplished, have influenced, or have created with technology over the years. Goodness knows, I have tried. It is like I have this secret life that nobody I work with knows about.

This is a sadness for me, because I really have tried to be a positive influence in technology adoption and innovation in my own school and district. There are many reasons it did not happen, of course, but I'm not ready to start burning those bridges just yet....

Monday, June 18, 2012


Five days left in my teaching career.

Something I will NOT miss: report cards. I just finished them. On the computer, of course. This was the first year my school district has had online report cards, sheesh.

Many details being worked on, and my classroom has hours and hours to go of clean-out. I spoke with someone at HR to help me better understand some financial details of my retirement. I am more relaxed now, knowing I haven't missed a deadline.

Today I started giving out free stuff to my kids. Now that was fun.