The atmosphere in the staff room will not be quite the same. There will be an empty space, for a little while, where she used to sit. Staff gatherings will not quite be the same. There will be a void, where her infectious giggling filled the room, at somebody’s silliness. The staff will bear the loss. But a loss it will be.
Thirty sets of parents and carers will feel different degrees of compassion towards the teacher, different degrees of disappointment. Some will, maybe, get their children to make a card and even write a comment in it themselves, to show love and support. But they will, all, feel anxious about what this means for their children. Some will feel disenchanted. The headteacher will have to divert some of her, already scare time and energy to meeting with them, to reassuring them. Life will carry on.
The headteacher will, in all likelihood, bear the added stress without breaking, because despite the enormous pressure she is under, she is resilient. But, added pressure it will be.
Thirty children have lost somebody really significant in their lives. Someone that accepted and valued them for being just as they are, someone that listened to them, someone that encouraged them, someone that empowered them. Some of the children have lost a role model, some an inspiration. Other teachers will valiantly and professionally step into the breach – probably from an agency – but they may only be able to stay for a few days, weeks, or months. Life will carry on.
The teacher’s coat will hang on the back of the classroom door for weeks, months, maybe even one, two, three, or more, years, as a reminder of the shell of the person left behind. The atmosphere in the class will not quite be the same. The relationships within the class will not quite be the same. The quality of learning will not quite be the same. The children will bear the loss because they are resilient. But, a loss it will be.
A family has lost a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a cousin. She won’t feel up to seeing anybody for a while. She will avoid family gatherings for months, or a year or more because it will be too much to see everyone in one place at one time. Life will carry on.
Dale Irby is a creature of habit. The Dallas, Texas physical education teacher wore the exact same polyester shirt and knit sweater vest for the past 40 years of yearbook photos.
The 2012-2013 Prestonwood Elementary School yearbook marks the outfit’s final appearance. According to the Dallas Morning News, Irby retired after a 40-year career.
Irby’s work wardrobe consisted mainly of athletic clothes. With few formal options, he chose the shirt and sweater combo for his first yearbook photo in 1973. The following year, he accidentally repeated the outfit, he told the Dallas Morning News.
“I was so embarrassed when I got the school pictures back that second year and realized I had worn the very same thing as the first year,” he said.
His wife, Cathy, a language arts teacher, dared him to repeat the outfit for his third yearbook photo. Irby thought it would be funny to extend the prank for five years. “After five pictures,” he said, “It was like, ‘Why stop?’”
This video, compiled by the Dallas Morning News, depicts the 40 nearly identical yearbook photos. Irby says the shirt still buttons if he “sucks it in a little.” Without any yearbook photos in his future, Irby says he’s ready to retire the ensemble!