June 29, 2009

A Trip Back "Home"

Tomorrow I should be posting the 2nd half of the "homework" for everyone, but I thought I would write a short post about my trip "home" over the weekend which actually had more to do with this blog than I ever would have thought.

To start, I grew up in Plano, Texas right outside of Dallas. It was, and still is, a place that is the perfect description of middle class America. Good public schools, safe neighborhoods, and everyone really does know all of their neighbors.

I moved to Atlanta in 1990 (I was 17), and while I had been back to Dallas to visit family since then, I had not really been back to the "old stomping grounds" of my youth. It is funny how the houses are smaller and the trees are now much bigger than I imagine.

I ran into the neighbor that was moving into the house next door the month before we moved (19 years ago), and he vaguely remembered my family and me. We talked about the changes to the house and neighborhood, and we laughed at various things as well. I marveled that the wood fence that I build for our backyard in 1988 was not only still standing, but it was in excellent condition.

Unfortunately, the people that bought "my" house were not home, but it is still the same couple. I hope to write them a letter or send a card just to say hello.

OK, enough about that... the rest of the trip allowed me to see family and friends, and it was great to eat some REAL Mexican food and BEEF bar-b-que. I will not bore you with the details, but I enjoyed it.

Anyway, yesterday I was boarding a flight home, and it ended up that a large number of the passengers were... educators. Yes, they were all headed to the 17th Annual Model Schools Conference in Atlanta this week.

I talked to those sitting around me about their retirement plans and pensions, the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), what you must have to retire in Texas, and more. It was interesting to "hear" the various opinions, and they asked numerous questions about plans from other states (after I mentioned this blog).

Under the current plan in Texas, I was told that educators would need to have their age plus years of service equal 90 or more to retire with full benefits (age + service = 90). This was raised from the previous plan (some were under the old plan) of age plus service equal to 80 or more (age + service = 80).

We had some interesting discussions during the flight, and as we went our separate ways, I wished them all good luck in the future and to enjoy the conference (gave some sightseeing tips too).

The funniest question... "How much do you get paid for that (the blog)?"

I said, "Nothing."

"Well, I would not spend my off time working like that..."

I asked, "How much are you getting paid to go to the conference?"

"Well, nothing."

I then asked, "But, you are going their to learn how to be more effective and help others, right?"

"Well, yes. I want to be able to help other teachers at my school to help our students."

I responded, "Exactly how are we different?" The smile from her and those around her said it all.

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