Thursday, 1 December 2016

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to work we go!

The phoenix hobbles about

This blog was supposed to be about the joys of retirement.  John the phoenix of retirement arising from the ashes of salaried servitude, spreading his wings and suddenly becoming a renaissance man; changing the face of modern literature in the morning, becoming multi-lingual over lunch (si, mon amie, das ist richtig!) creating canvases of unimaginable beauty and translucence in the afternoon whilst simultaneously sculpting his body into an athletic form that Usain Bolt could only dream of and then winding down by crafting the odd song or poem before a period of mindfulness and spirituality that would bring shafts of enlightenment both to himself and the world.  If only.... The truth is that my lofty goals have not quite been realised.  Yes, I have started a Spanish class and I have been on my exercise bike now and then but that's about it. 

Hopes and fears 


The main thing is, and being serious now, I have enjoyed the freedom that retirement brings. I have taken advantage of this  freedom, like many other retirees, to do the things I couldn't really do whilst working full time. It has been a fantastic and liberating experience. However, I recall that this time last year the prospect of retirement slightly frightened me. Where would I get the social interaction, the buzz of being called upon to sort problems, the sense of purpose that work provided?  My fears were such that I had put in place all sorts of ideas and plans that I hoped would generate the odd bit of work. I had signed up to do some occasional work at one school, registered at an agency for private tutors and had told an educational provider in Suffolk that I would like to work with them at some vague point in the future. Then I retired. It was unexpectedly wonderfulMy fears were unfounded.  I had plenty of activities and ventures to get stuck into and I started my volunteering which helped me discover a new sense of purpose and meaning.  Throughout September and October I heard nothing about me doing any work but I was more than happy.  I had plenty to get on with and I did not need work financially.

That wasn't supposed to happen

Then about two weeks ago something strange happened; all of my paid work contingency plans materialised around the same time.  

The school where I had worked asked if I could come in for the day and cover a teacher.  That was last Thursday. Lovely, one day of work every few months would hardly be a heavy demand on my time. At the same time some provisionally discussed work teaching drama in Suffolk became a reality.  The trouble was they wanted me to start this December- the next two weekends in fact. This was now looking like "being at work" again. In addition someone approached me to start private tutoring of her son through a site that I had forgotten I had registered on as a tutor. Finally a school I had hoped to work for, offered me some tutoring with them. I was caught unawares. What was I going to do?  How was I going to fit all this in, did I want to fit it all in?

Going back to where I'd worked


Well I did do the day back at the old school.  To be fair I had said that I would be happy to do the odd day of cover. The interesting thing for me was how dislocating that experience was.  Going back to a place where I had been deputy headteacher and now being a supply teacher took a bit of getting used to.  As one cheeky lad put it, "You don't work here any more, so you can't tell me off." Ah, the familiar but inaccurate refrain repeated to so many supply teachers.  But it was not just that.  Brilliant though it was seeing the students and staff, something didn't feel quite right. I'd left and come back but no longer belonged in the same way. I had become the equivalent of a tourist and that gave the day an interesting twist.  I started to see things in a different way both positive and negative.  I was the outsider looking in rather than the insider projecting out. I enjoyed the day but I also missed my freedom and it really hit me how much work completely dominates many people's lives.  I was only working for one day but I couldn't escape the feeling that I was tied to someone else's priorities and timetable for that day.  I admit I did go home and appreciated all over again how liberating it would be to wake up the next day and be answerable to no-one but myself as to how I would spend that next day.

An exciting new venture


So what about these coming weekends?  Well strangely these feel very different.  As a supply teacher you have to do what's asked of you with no choice. You could be teaching any subject to any age and you have little control over what you are expected to deliver. The coming weekends are different.  I have been asked to lead drama sessions to groups of students, linking in with other creative professionals to produce a mini production around the story of Aladdin. I am firmly back in control over what I prepare and what I will present to the students. The great thing about creative subjects is that the students will bring their ideas and creativity to the weekend so I may control the input but the output will be dependent on what we all contribute and the students will have a large element of control in this.  As a result, the coming weekends will not, I am sure, feel like regular days at work. The lack of restriction, the freedom, the unknown outcomes, this is not the usual stuff of regular work days. People coming together, exploring, creating, laughing and developing is how I dreamed education would be.  It will be exhausting but I am sure it will also be exhilarating and fun.  I will be working with new people in a different environment free of the curricular and assessment restraints that now so often stifle real learning and creativity in many schools. In short, working in a way I'd hoped to when I first became a teacher. I can't wait.  

The other work; tutoring, both one to one and in another school, I have declined. I have enough for now. I will do the odd day of supply at my old school if they want me and as long as I enjoy it. I do hope to become further involved  in the weekend drama work over the next year. For me that will be about attaining what I had always hoped for; doing something I really enjoy, something I would choose to do in my spare time, with people I respect and in a way that still leaves me plenty of time for the other important activities and people in my life. As these weekends will be a completely new venture for me I shall report back next week.

Dream scenario? 

So yes, on a small scale, I am going back to work, but in a way that I had always dreamed of; on my terms,doing things I really enjoy and gain satisfaction from and still with plenty of time to pursue my other interests. I feel fortunate.

Thanks for reading.


  1. It sounds wonderful! I remember those fearful moments I had prior to retiring, filled with worry about how I would structure my time. So glad that you have found the joy of structuring your time the way you wish.

    I've always admired those who are creative/artistic. I seem to have nary a speck of creativity in my blood! However I certainly appreciate those who are blessed with this gift. It will be interesting to hear how these weekends go for you.

    1. Carole you might surprise yourself. I firmly believe everyone has a creative side but sometimes it just needs a bit of a prod! Creativity is a muscle that needs exercise, that's all. You'll have to come over and do one of my drama weekends!

  2. I was busier as a retired person than I ever thought possible. It was my creative time, I did and made things I would never have thought of doing/making before. Love it still.

  3. I agree and that has been the big, lovely surprise so far with retirement. Glad you are still loving it!

  4. I haven't gotten the back to work bug yet, and I somehow doubt that I will. I have become extremely commitment-phobic since I've retired. But, it sounds like you found a nice balance for yourself. The great thing is that you can change your mind - one way or the other - if you decide that things aren't working for you. Yay flexibility!

  5. Exactly Janis and I shall let you know if I have got the balance right after this weekend! To be honest teaching drama isn't really work, more like play with pay! I definitely only want to do work now that I enjoy and get satisfaction from. Enjoyed your last post by the way- nice photos.

  6. I so love the way you write ! Good in making the choices that work for YOU. As an artist, I never have a dull moment, always full of creativity and joy. The days just fly by ! But we "retired" persons (OMG I hate that word) have that one great gift (assuming the $$ and health are there): control over our TIME. Personally, at age 75, I'm just getting going and haven't quite figured out yet what I'm going to do when I grow up !

  7. Thanks for the comment Annie. At this moment I am just about to start my second day of this new arts venture and really enjoying it (next post content for sure). The Spanish word jubilado is much better than retired but if I use it all the time it could confuse people! You are so right, it is about having that control over time, and I love the sentiment about when you grow up. But don't grow up too much.

  8. As a not-yet-retired person, I have to admit that some of the factors that I worry about are a lack of structure and purpose in my life once I retire. That is why I enjoy reading about your jubilado experiences so much. You are clearly living your life with joy and purpose. On the other hand, my leave period is kind of like a "practice" retirement, and I must say I have not lacked for things to do.

    1. To be honest Jude I spent the last year of work wondering if I was doing the right thing, having visions of myself as washed up and useless. I also thought I would really miss work and the people and children I worked with. I needn't have worried; I almost put too many things in place. I think from the sound of it you will be the same; there will be new structures but also new freedoms and possibilities. I'm even having trouble keeping the blog going and on that note I'd better finish off my next overdue post before my trip to London tomorrow.


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