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When I Retire

[Editor’s note: Mr. Foteah is a third-year teacher in an elementary school in Queens. He blogs at From the Desk of Mr. Foteah, where this post originally appeared.]

I recently wrote about how having friends at work was never a priority. However, the fact of the matter is I have made some close ones — people I really respect and enjoy being around. That makes work pleasant, as we’re all dealing with similar challenges together, instead of battling alone. Of course, it makes you want to go to work everyday, knowing that you’re going to a place where you are liked and like the people around you.

Now, I’ve heard anecdotes recently from a variety of schools about colleagues not being so supportive of each other, saying nasty things behind others’ backs and the like. I hope no one is doing this to me, and if any of my colleagues have any kind of issue with me, that they can bring it to my attention and we can work it out.

Like everyone else, I want to be recognized for my positive attributes, and I want those to be my hallmarks and form my reputation.

We recently celebrated the end of the school year with our annual party. This one had the added wrinkle of being a de facto retirement party for some much loved members of the staff.

I was moved by the way people spoke about each retiree. I didn’t expect such wonderful things to be said, and more importantly, the honorees were genuinely surprised and touched.

I’m not perfect, but I hope when it comes time for me to retire, my colleagues can look back and say:

  • I was a team builder and effective motivator of colleagues.
  • I was fair to my students and cared for them as if they were my own children.
  • I built character in my students and gave them creative learning experiences that inspired and energized them.
  • I was a supportive, trusted colleague who others could turn to for advice, help, and an attentive, even-minded, honest ear.
  • I treated all members of the school community with respect as human beings.

Of course, retirement is a long way off for me, but if I stay true to these ideals, I think my career can continue to be fulfilling and I can, I hope, enrich the lives of others’ the way the ones we honored at the party enriched mine and so many others.