Recently, I’ve been poignently reminded of something I was never prepared for as a school leader. This post will focus on retirements, as it’s a near-and-dear perspective at the moment.
In our preparation programs, we are good at helping future leaders understand the importance of hiring the best candidates (see one of the previous posts in this blog). However, there is always a process that precedes the hiring, the first step of which is that another faculty member needs to vacate the position. Long gone are the days when schools were able to ADD faculty positions.
One way in which a school gets the opportunity to hire is through the retirement of faculty members. As a school leader, especially one who has built relationships with faculty members, students and the school community, one now has the task of “replacing” someone who is virually unreplaceable.
A school leader is often not prepared for one or two of these retirement announcements in a year. They often come at the last minute with little time to prepare appropriate celebrations for the retiree(s) to honor their service, while also thinking about who will take that position the next year.
Everything I’ve mentioned really speaks to the logistical challenges the school leaders faces when beloved teachers retire. The part I was least expecting was dealing with my OWN emotional reaction to those announcements. Again, having built relationships with the retiree(s) and holding them in high esteem myself, I found myself also experiencing the emotions for which other employees were seeking assistance from me in handling. That is a piece to this day continues to be a struggle, but at least knowing it’s a struggle can help a leader to continue to support his or her staff members in appropriately dealing with their emotions around one of their talented and well-liked peers retiring after a long time of service to students.