Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Life With A Retired Principal On The Day Before School Begins

Treasured Memories of Autumn Days as An Educator

Stepping out on the back porch yesterday morning, I felt autumn in the air.  As always, the sense of fall approaching has been met by me with both nostalgia and ambivalence.  Autumn is my favorite time of year.  The colors, the smells, and the events of autumn always fill me with anticipation and excitement concerning what the new year will bring.  I have lived the school calendar schedule for most of my adult life.  I am now very programed to respond to autumn with plans for the upcoming year.

This mindset becomes a bit of a problem when one retires and is no longer going off to school at the end of August.  So, how are the Wessely's handling the end of summer and the beginning of the school year?  Well, last night, I watched my husband get down to business and get ready for the really big, important events of any school year:  he downloaded the football game schedule for the upcoming season from his former high school's website onto his electronic calendar.  Phew, now we at least know for sure when the team will be playing.  We haven't given up that tradition.  We will be at Dutch Clark Stadium wearing the black and white and sitting in row 17 whenever the black and white are playing a home game,  just like we always have since 1997 when Jim first became principal of South High School.  The only thing that has changed over the last few years is that my dear husband no longer is "on duty" during the game.  That doesn't mean he sits at my side through the entire game.  He still has to go through the crowd "meeting and greeting" just as he always has.

School starts tomorrow for the teachers.  Jim is going to the opening of the school year luncheon at his old school.  He is going as a representative of the alumni board this year.  He jokingly told the principal, his former AP, that if it weren't for his hair cut, he would attend the faculty meeting in the morning since he misses those so much.  It turns out that principals don't like faculty meetings any better than teachers do.

Today, the day before teachers go back to school, would have been a stressful day for my husband when he was working.  There would be so much to do.  He would no doubt be working very late.  Instead, because he is now retired, he mowed the lawn today.  That is a new activity at our house.  For all the years that he was principal, we hired our lawn mowing duties out.  He even used his new, handy-dandy lawn edger to trim around all the edges of the yard and flower beds.

I had to smile when I heard the garbage truck pull up around noon.  I knew that Jim would be right out there on the curb ready to help the garbage collectors lift and empty our garbage cans.  That is another retirement activity that he always does when he is home on garbage day.  Today, he seemed to take a bit longer on helping the garbage collectors.  When he finally came in the house, I asked what had taken so long.  I half expected that he was inviting the guys in for lunch.  He said he had been visiting with our mail carrier.  Yes, we've developed quite a relationship with her also since we've retired.

My husband keeps quite involved with his former assistant principals.  Every high school principal in this town, where we have four high schools, served as an AP with my husband.  One of the middle school principals is also a former AP.  They call him with funny stories, or to bounce ideas off of him, quite often.  He goes to lunch with them.  He stops by to visit them at school.  He is happily removed from his daily duties, but he also is able to to stay involved in his friendships that have developed from his years of mentoring new leadership while working side by side with those who are now serving high school principalships.

Many wondered how my husband would ever retire.  He worked for 42 years in education.  He was a high school principal for over a decade.  He worked 10 hours a day as a minimum.  It seemed he went to every game, concert, or play that took place during a school year.  One of his former AP's, who is now a principal, recently asked, "Boss, when did you ever sleep?"  His response, "Didn't you ever see the cot in my office?" I used to ask why he didn't just get a cot for his office.  There were times when I picked up dinner, brought it to him between meetings and night activities, and we ate together at the small conference table in that second home of his.

Moving Day - Last Day in Office at SHS

Do you think he parked his car on the street for so many years that they named it after him when he retired?

An amazing thing happened when he retired.  He actually did retire.  He loves retirement.  He loves not having the pressures.  He happily mows the lawn and chit chats with the garbage collectors.  He has been just as successful at retirement as he was at working.  Maybe that is because he could look back on a career filled with many good things and say, "I worked hard and loved my profession.  I have no regrets.  I accomplished more than I set out to do.  I've earned my rest and relaxation.  Now, I'm going to hang it all up, say good-bye, and enjoy the days I have left."  I'm at his side trying to learn from him about being successful with this stage of my life, just as I tried to learn how to be a good educator from him when I was still working.

Many good times were spent wearing this jacket with pride.

Here's to another year of retirement and to another year of not starting out a new school year.


  1. Love this. I watch my husband Art chatting while he's gardening with everyone who walks by.

  2. I have so many mixed feelings about the start of a new school year...so I'm avoiding thinking about them by taking a cruise. Your husband is lucky to be able to maintain his relationships after retiring. In my district there have been so many administrative changes that almost none of my collegues are left...and those who are walk on eggshells. Tomorrow I will attend the substitute lunch and training. I can't cut the ties yet either.

  3. Dad called me to tell me to check your blog. Great post, Sally! You have a wonderful way with words.

  4. Although my husband is not yet retired, we are both very practical people and, like our parents, will no doubt be busy all day long, either 'making things' or maintaining the house and garden. I look forward to it. My hobbies are sewing, knitting, blogging, gardening, and horrendously addictive -big jigsaws. Luckily for us too, we are very near to our grandchildren and our baby-sitting skills are often on demand.


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