Keeping retirement real. Six years out and remembering the teachers lounge.


My first day teaching I pulled into a space in the school parking lot by the chain link fence that separated it from the playground.

Sitting alone in the teachers lounge a few minutes later as others chatted and drank bad coffee from the old coffee urn on a counter covered in floral contact paper, a woman walked in, put both hands on her hips and demanded to know who had parked in her parking spot.

Everyone turned and looked at me.

She was the third grade teacher, the senior teacher on staff, and that was how my teaching career began.

I recently re-connected with a teacher, also now retired, who insisted that when I started teaching with her at the middle school nobody liked me..

Micky told me, “I remember that you came into the teachers lounge acting like you knew everything!”

I still cannot convince her that I never taught with her in the middle school. That building was torn down long before I started teaching.

Which is not to say she is wrong about whether as a new teacher I was liked.

Although, believe it or not, I did keep my head down the first couple of years

It is not really accurate to call the room a teachers lounge. It is really a staff lounge, although over the years the various principals I worked for tended to stay out.

During a brief two-year period toward the end we had this really, really terrible principal. She would walk in just at the moment I or somebody else was talking stuff about her.  Colleagues were convinced that Marcy had turned the intercom into a listening device and could hear every word we said.

I doubted it. I just figured she was clueless about the school protocol that the lounge belonged to staff who actually worked with students and not to administration. As she was clueless about so much.

When a delegation of us went to the superintendent to talk to him about her, he angrily declared there was no chance of her being let go.

Two weeks later she was gone.

When I first started teaching, smoking was allowed in the lounges. After a while people put “smoking” and “non-smoking” signs on the tables, although the signs didn’t keep the entire room from filling up with smoke.

Peg Luby and I were among the smokers and shared a smoking table. A year after I started teaching, Peg retired. A year later she died of lung cancer.

I heard the news and quit.

I would head for the lounge after I felt a student teacher was ready to fly on their own. If I sat at my desk the students would tend to come to me and ask questions about the work. Since staying in the room tended to undercut the student teacher’s position, I would leave.

One year the social worker looked through the lounge door window and saw me bent over. I was checking email messages.

Rather than coming in, she walked all the way down the hall to tell Matthew that she thought I was dead.

Which I wasn’t.

Also, don’t reheat yesterday’s salmon in the lounge microwave oven.

The smell never goes away.


2 thoughts on “Keeping retirement real. Six years out and remembering the teachers lounge.

  1. Good stuff, Fred.
    Last year there was a terrific play, “The Teacher’s Lounge,” (I think that was the title) at the Oil Lamp Theatre in Glenview. Went to see it w/a group of retired teachers; house was packed, & it was thoroughly enjoyed, w/standing ovation at the end. It was written by a teacher, so was the real deal.
    I hope they–or another Chicago/Chicago area theatre brings it back.
    You’d all love it.

  2. Fred, when you had your head bent down , and someone thought you were dead, was that the clue to let you know it was time to retire?
    For me it was when students forgot and called me “grandma” rather than “mommy!”

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