I always thought that I would retire from teaching when I no longer loved the profession, was “burned out” and was looking forward to more free time.
This was not the case for me.
I decided to retire when I still loved what I did and I was at my best in terms of my students’ achievements. I wanted to leave when I felt I would be missed by my students, knowing that I was still as committed and passionate about making a difference as I had been for the past 40 years.
So, when I was given a financial incentive to retire from Great Neck North High School in 2015, I decided that it was the right time.
This decision was very difficult for me, and I have to admit that it really took me a year to finally get used to the idea that I would have to create a new “lesson plan” for my life to feel as fulfilled as I did while I was a teacher.
My career as a language teacher gave me a sense of purpose. I taught Spanish, French and English as a second language to students from elementary school through college and adults. I was never bored. I always felt challenged and felt that I impacted so many lives. My daughter surprised me at the end of my career with a video she had made of students I had taught five, 10, 30 years ago, and the lessons that I had taught them that went way farther than teaching them a foreign language.
I cried when I watched the video because I was retiring from what was such a big part of my life. I was a teacher, that is was how I defined myself. Who would I be now?
I decided to study and use my language skills to become a medical interpreter. This idea did not fulfill me the way I thought it would. I decided to substitute for the language department I had just left so that I could still see my colleagues and former students. This idea also proved not to meet my expectations. I found it very hard to go backward. I then realized that I had to think of other things to do.
I planned a trip, and petrified that I would have too much time on my hands, I planned a lot of them. I went back to Chile to visit relatives and reconnect with family and tried to fill my first year with lots of trips that I could look forward to. My husband, Ronnie, and I have traveled to Germany and Spain this summer. I also tried volunteering and took lots of classes, started playing guitar again, cooking more, knitting, reading, spending time with our new grandson and even became a “canasta lady” (something I swore I would never do, but turned out to be a fun, social activity).
I filled my time with activities that brought me joy; one of the most fulfilling is tutoring. I can still be a teacher, I can still do what I love to do, impart knowledge to kids. I have found a balance. But, I still wake up every day and I write down a lesson plan for the day. My body still wakes me up early, but now I have the joy of staying in bed a little longer, playing Words With Friends, watching the news before I start my day.
I have finally come to terms with the fact that I have retired from teaching, but I will not retire from feeling productive, hopefully impacting positively on society, and as long as I am young and healthy enough, having fun!
READY OR NOT Is the retirement clock ticking? Are you on the brink of putting in your papers? Ready to take things down a notch — wake up late, meet friends for lunch, play more golf? Or is your current job too enjoyable to leave? Are your retirement funds too low to go? Is the thought of not clocking in after years on the job intimidating? Without work, do you have a social life? Are you staying put or putting in your papers? If you’re retired, how’s it going? Share your thoughts for possible publication. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Act 2 Editor, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747. Include your name, address, phone numbers and a picture, if available.