Trying to Leave Well.
An attempt at being a good exiting employee.
In almost exactly 11 weeks time, I will be no longer be an employee for the place that has given me the only “adult” job that I have ever had. This has been an inevitability ever since I signed my contract and tendered my letter of resignation at the beginning of December, but as it gets closer to the actual moment of ending, I find that more and more things are moving from the abstract future to the will-actually-happen-soon one. It’s a new experience, and one that is probably exaggerated given the substantial life changes that accompany it. It’s also the first time that I’ve ever had to wind down my work for an organization in any really significant way.
I suppose could approach this process from a variety of stances. To listen to many of my colleagues, I should be doing as little as possible, while still maintaining a sheen of competence. I should be figuring out ways to use as many sick days as I can, and doing almost nothing to keep the department moving toward their vision of what science & technology education looks like. On some level, the suggestion is that I should stop caring.
I’ve thought about that (who wouldn’t?), but fundamentally I can’t do it. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing my least here at the end of a career spent in a place where I’ve tried to do my best. It wouldn’t sit well, with me or with my colleagues. While I’m sure it’s fun for those who make the above suggestion to imagine that it’s what they would do in a similar situation, I think I know them all well enough to know that it’s generally not how they would approach a similar ending either. Generally speaking, good educators want to do good work and have a hard time with anything less than that.
Which does not mean that the upcoming transition has not affected how I am doing my job. I am sure that the observations that I conducted after committing to my new job were affected by my new perspective. Not in a bad way, just in a way that acknowledged that conversations between me and my staff were not going to continue past this year. I have to think they were both kinder to the teacher, and more honest in my opinions. I stopped giving any thought to what my bosses would think. And I’ve certainly had less compunction about accompanying my staff on field trips, and site visits. My focus on returning to the classroom next year has led me to approach such opportunities as chances to expose my teacher self to more teaching styles and more experiences that I can draw from in my own, resumed teaching practice.
I’ve also felt a bit less burdened by those parts of this job that I have typically had the most difficulty with. I think I’m handling incoming parent concerns with a respectful directness that I might have had a hesitancy to employ in the past. I’ve felt less of a need to project sympathy in situations where I don’t feel that it is deserved or helpful to do so. I’ve also become better at putting things down when and where they should be. I don’t mean to suggest that each of these things has necessarily made me better at my job, but they have happened, and it wouldn’t be honest to pretend that they haven’t. There’s a freedom in leaving that lets me see things from a different perspective. I think it would be foolish to pass that up, as long as it isn’t causing me to become delinquent in my responsibilities.
My mentor described this part of the job as “putting the door back on the barn”. I think that’s a pretty good descriptor. This period of my work is one where I find I have less and less to do, but I still want to do it as well as I can. Lest the rats get in, or the horses get loose.
What are your thoughts about leaving a long-term job? Should you do your best to the end, or explode in a blaze of not-caring? Drop me a line or leave a comment below if you have something to say.
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