Fike High School retirees gathered on May 17 at Parker’s Barbecue for lunch and for remembrance of their time spent as educators and fast friends.
Representatives from numerous departments, along with several spouses and friends — about 30 in all — shared and celebrated as we enjoyed a meal together.
As one of the retirees in attendance, I observed the energy and dynamics of the group whose members had worked together at Fike mostly in the ‘80s,‘90s and well into the 21st century. The observations were numerous, but a few stand out in my mind.
First, the hugs, smiles and greetings were evidence of the bond shared by the group. We were delighted to hear about the whereabouts of each other’s children and grandchildren. While some retirees have moved away from Wilson, many still live here. We learned that some were traveling and could not attend; others had conflicts, and a few were absent due to illness.
During the meal, we shared stories of our lives as retirees. We learned that some are still working; others are caring for parents or helping with grandchildren. Most are enjoying retirement and living active lives, volunteering and doing the things they have always wanted to do.
What was said and unsaid filled the room. As conversation swirled about the room, thoughts about our careers were surely present.
Many of us who spent years at Fike reflected on some of the changes we experienced as educators. Some of us probably remembered the year that those big fans were installed in our classrooms and when air conditioning was later provided. And when each classroom got a phone, many of those trips to the office and to other classrooms or to the media center were unnecessary. These additions were game-changers for sure.
Our years together witnessed other major changes. When computer technology came to schools, we remember the challenge of learning new methods of taking attendance, computing and reporting grades, communicating with administrators and parents and other innovations in teaching and communicating.
As we talked to each other that day, many of us remembered when Wilson County Schools adjusted to block scheduling. What a change it was to teach three 90-minute classes instead of five 55-minute classes. We can recall the details of this additional game-changer.
All of us can recall what it was like when a student or faculty member died during the school year. We remember how we consoled students at such times, let them talk and grieve and did not require them to do much class work immediately following the time of grief.
All of us can recall unruly students and difficult parents and how we were skilled at managing each situation and moving on after difficult times. We were expert problem-solvers and multitaskers, and we probably are still.
As we were together that day, we might have looked at each other and remembered the lighter moments, those times we talked and laughed and shared funny “tales from school,” as some of us called them. We might have been thinking about the times we cut up and showed the student body that we could have fun. One time a group of us, including yours truly, dressed up like big, purple grapes and did a dance routine to “I Heard It through the Grapevine” at a big pep rally, amid the cheers and guffaws of the students in the bleachers.
As we ate that day, many of us remembered the other times we broke bread together at faculty lunches provided by parent groups or the administration. We remember faculty Christmas parties and, more importantly, eating lunch around that old table in the faculty lounge. We remembered lunch duty.
We remember how we supported each other, how we advised each other and shared materials; we remember covering each other’s classes when necessary; we remember making lesson plans for each other during family emergencies; we remember the conflicts — there were a few — that we learned to resolve for the good of everyone involved.
We remember all the custodians, clerical workers, teachers and assistant teachers, coaches, counselors, administrators and others who formed the Fike family. The memories of those who have died are precious.
Most of all, we remember the students, and we knew we were at Fike because of them. We remember those who struggled and eventually pulled through; we remember those who dropped out despite our heroic efforts; we remember all the graduation days and how the seniors dressed up and marched as their family members looked on with pride.
We remember that the work we did was good and that it made a mark on many young people in our community.
All these thoughts consumed us at Parker’s that day.
We are thankful to those who organized the Fike retiree lunch, and since teachers like to talk and socialize, we decided that we will meet quarterly. The next event will be in August.
Other schools in Wilson County have their own retiree meetings. They have an equally good time as they celebrate their friendships and careers.
Finally, we remember good old Ralph L. Fike, the school that nurtured our friendships and our careers and brought us to the point where we can call ourselves “Fike retirees.”
Sanda Baucom Hight is retired from Wilson County Schools after serving as an English teacher and is currently a substitute teacher in Wilson County.