You Are Not Indispensable

Originally at Simple Is Working – 8/14/11
Are you indispensable?
Nope – sorry you are not.
As summer break ends there has been the usual shuffle of staff throughout education from retirements, resignations or transfers.
I have to ask, didn’t you think when you submitted your retirement, resignation or transfer request, that another person would probably be hired to fill your former position – to replace you.
It didn’t matter where you are on the educational hierarchy: Superintendent, Administrator, Master Teacher, Teacher, EdTech, Secretary, Custodian and yes even usSpecial Education teachers.
How does that make you feel?
To see what you so diligently worked for or on for all those years, change so much – most likely very quickly after your departure. You will see the changes especially in your old room or office, that one that you spent some much of your life in, and finally got it just the way you wanted it before you left.
By the beginning of school, if (you shouldn’t) you go back to “offer” your help to the new person hired to replace you, has already thrown away, given away or gotten rid of all the great “stuff” you left to help them out.
They are making your old place “their” place.
The new person will remind you that they have to do it their way, not yours and probably offer to give you several boxes that have been labelled trash or free for the taking.
This can be very difficult concept for some former educators to accept easily or gracefully, especially those who believe that they were such an integral cog at a school for so many, many years.
Believe it or not, no matter how important you were last year or even the last five, ten, or more years at your school or district, you will be amazed at how quickly you will be relegated to “oh they used to be here” and forgotten. The school will somehow keep open and heaven forbid possibly thrive, even though you are no longer there (or even worse in some cases, because you are no longer there) – that is just the way things work.
10 Ideas for leaving a school behind.
  1. Don’t visit your old school, unless you make an appointment with the person you are going to see, just dropping in is not appropriate. I don’t care if you worked in that building for 30 years, you no longer work there.
  2. Remember to sign-in and sign-out at the front desk.  Yes – you now have to sign-in, so do not feel put-out when the secretary asks you to “sign-in”.
  3. Don’t talk negatively about the person who replaces you or compare how you would do something to how they are doing it. It isn’t fair to the new person and makes you look petty.
  4. If invited back or attending a function/event, don’t arrive early and wander the halls, be there on time and stay where the function/event is taking place.
  5. If you left something at the school (unless it is something really important or very sentimental) and school has started – forget about it or call and ask a former colleague to get it for you and meet them somewhere away from the school. It really can’t be that important if you forgot it in the first place.
  6. If you are volunteering in the school after you retired/resigned – keep your mouth shut and be positive about what you see happening at the school. Do your volunteering and do not get involved with the day-to-day school politics. Your role has changed, accept and embrace your new role, if you can’t do this, don’t volunteer.  Many schools have a requirement that former employees have to wait 12 months before they can volunteer – I think that is a good policy.
  7. If want to get involved with the politics part of the school debate – run for your local school board – if you now have the time to do it right and you would be a great advocate for education on the board, with real classroom experience.
  8. Don’t drop into the teacher’s lounge for an “occasional” lunch, so you can catch up on the recent gossip and bitch sessions going on (as we know the teacher’s lounge is a hotbed for both). If you want to see some of those you used to work with and get the latest gossip, go out after school, go out to lunch on the weekend or during breaks, if they have time.
  9. Remember just because you now might have some extra time, does not mean that your former colleagues will.
  10. If former students attempt to contact you, think about how you will handle this and have a policy in place that you can refer to, you might think it is something you don’t need, but it might just save your ass someday in today’s world, if allegations are ever made against you.
Once you have retired, resigned or transferred – you do have to let it go and move on.
Please don’t become one of those “dreaded” former educators that can’t stay away from their old school after they have “left”.  Remember what you used to think of those former teachers who kept coming back when you were teaching and how you pitied them.  Do you want to be pitied?
Just keep remembering – You were the one that decided to leave and as Yoda says “Do or do not. There is no try.”
No you were not indispensable, they will live without you.