xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: The "R" word comes to us all, eventually.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The "R" word comes to us all, eventually.

I wrote this piece for WAPPA Words magazine in June 2002. I retired six months later.



As we approach the end of the school year we also approach a time when some principals will be retiring, some after many, many years of valued service to education.
Years ago the Four Aces had a popular hit song titled "Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up that Old Gang Of Mine". A few years later we heard that "All My Friends Are Getting Married".
In my case, the words of that song should be "All Of My Friends Are Now Retiring".
In fact most of them have already retired. 
At the start of each week I ask my wife, "Whose retirement function are we going to this Friday?"
To some people retirement is a terminal disease. To others it is the gateway to excitement and adventure.
Retirement is a bit like a holiday on the Gold Coast; you want to have as much fun as possible, but you are dead scared that your money will run out. Which explains why Financial Planning is the growth industry of the 21st century.
Some plans are better than others. Personally I like the plan put forward around 2001 by a former respected president of the Western Australian Primary Principals Association, Rudy Rybarczk.
Just before he stepped down as President, after four years of distinguished service,  Rudy was at a WAPPA State Assembly. Here he caught up with the then Director General, Paul Albert.
Rudy  reminded the D-G that as president he was on the unattached list of the education department and as ex-president he would still be on the unattached list.
"I know that Rudy," replied the Director- General, "What do you think we should do about that?"
"Well," said Rudy, "I think we should keep the same arrangement going. I'll stay on the unattached list and you'll just keep sending me a cheque every fortnight."
Now that really is a financial plan!
I know some retired principals who tell me that they have never been busier. Every day is filled with interesting things to do. On the other hand I have a friend who tells me that the first thing he does when he wakes up each morning is to take a nap! His life is just one long period of inactivity. This does not appeal to me. Let's face it, if you have nothing to do all day, how do you know when you have finished?
My appointment with the "R" word is looming on the horizon and this has raised a rather unusual problem. At Doubleview School many parts of the school have been named in honour of former administrators. A staff member recently asked what part of the school would be named in my honour after I retired. Personally I like the thoughts of Cicero on this one. Cicero said he would prefer that people asked why there were no monuments in his honour rather than ask why there were.
At Doubleview School we already have the Jim Hopkins Library, The Ron Patching Hall, The Val Gough Netball Centre and The John K Lyons Oval.
That doesn't leave very much. I guess I'll have to settle for the Noel Bourke Bulk Rubbish Disposal Unit.
Then there is the actual retirement function itself. What can you say to adequately sum up forty years in education.
Some speak out grandly about their achievements. Some are more circumspect and lavish praise on others for their successful careers. This can sometimes backfire, as it did with an Israeli minister who was making his farewell speech to parliament in such modest tones. At one point in his speech the then Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, slipped a note to him which read, "Don't be so humble...you're not that great!"
Maybe I'll take my cue from Professor Scott Elldridge, long time Professor of Education at Cornell University, who simply said, "The time has now come for me to step aside for a younger, less experienced...and less able man."
Ah, yes, humility. That's more my style.

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