Teachers…We’re All Replaceable


We had our closing staff meeting last week. It’s always been a welcomed development. This year, however, I experienced some interesting emotions. This was year 30 for me. In October of 2016, I’ll have 31 years in STRS and can officially retire. I don’t think I will, I’m having too much fun! But nonetheless, it’s remarkable how life zooms by.

Completing 30 BIG ONES was reason enough to be reflective, but what really got me thinking was our school’s farewell to an amazing teacher. Mike Smith is in his early 60s. He retired, and we honored him at the closing meeting. This guy is a wonderful teacher. My kids had him and loved him. He taught Physics, which many students consider impossible. And yet, he empowered them, and gave them confidence. GREAT WORK MIKE!

Our principal did a good job honoring Mike. He spoke for about 5 minutes. His speech was sincere and congratulatory. Interestingly enough, after our principal spoke, I overheard a side conversation amongst a couple of colleagues. They were talking about a young teacher they knew who was applying for Mike’s position. They were raving about this young instructor’s potential.

How interesting, I thought. This great teacher was headed out, and this new young teacher was headed in. If this new young teacher is as good as advertised, Mike won’t be missed. If this new teacher doesn’t fill his shoes, Mike will be missed…BUT NOT FOR LONG! At most, retiring high school teachers have a 3 year shelf-life. By then, all the kids who were Freshman when they taught their final lesson, will have graduated.

Some might read this post and get depressed…DON’T! There’s something magically liberating about this perspective. You’re not just some independent contractor, you’re part of this grand, wonderful, complex organism. So, chill out and take a deep breath! Life is always better when you let go of your ego.

I left the closing faculty meeting feeling euphoric. IT’S ALL GOING TO BE OKAY! In a couple of years, it’ll be me up there getting The Golden Watch. My principal will go on about how the school will never be the same without me. That will be a lie! The school will be just fine without me. AND, THAT’S OKAY!

My book “You’ve Gotta Connect” is all about how teachers can forge strong relationships with students. You can also listen to me dialogue about bonding with students on numerous podcasts.