February 10, 2009

Time for Change?

I will now write about a subject that is none of my business: retirement. I want to appeal to those who are close to the end of their teaching career, anyone with over 30 years experience, to strongly consider making this their last year of official public service. I also want to encourage those individuals who have lost interest in growing as educators to start a new chapter in their lives. In California, as in much of the country, the budget issues are humongous. In about a month my school district will start sending pink slip layoff notices to many of our employees both certificated and classified. Within this group could be many young nontenured teachers. We need these young people in education.

In general, a veteran teacher costs more than twice as much as a new teacher to keep employed at any school district. That doesn’t mean that for every one teacher who will retire this year, that two newer teachers will stayed employed, but for sure a retiring teacher will help save a young teachers job. Some teachers have lost their passion for teaching and are right now considering another profession. This is a good time to make that change. Of course the younger teachers will not have the experience or the expertise in the classroom of the veterans. However, the future of education lies squarely on the shoulders of the younger generation of teachers who have been thoroughly trained and prepared for the job.

Teaching is hard work for a cost of living wage. I am afraid that if young people who have worked so hard and made so many sacrifices to become teachers leave education because of these budget cuts they may not come back. Teaching requires an expertise in a variety of disciplines (subject area, classroom management, public speaking) that are highly attractive to employers. These young teachers will find other jobs that pay more and that might even satisfy some of their personal needs to serve. Good for them; bad for education. We need these people to stay in the service of our students.

We all remember what it was like at the beginning of our teaching careers. The excitement of the classroom, the joy of learning, the satisfaction of knowing that we made a difference to somebody. Do you still feel that way? Because there are other things to do in the world to help contribute to our society regardless of how long you've been teaching. The universities are always in need of adjunct faculty; how better to share your teaching experiences? You could also write a book on teaching or finish that novel. And for the die-hard teacher, some districts might even hire you back at their base salary.

Again, this is none of my business. I would personally be greatly offended if I was in my 31st year of teaching and some complete stranger wrote to me asking me to retire. I would be equally offended if someone who had never stepped foot into my classroom suggested that I consider another line of work. I will retire when I’m good and ready thanks. For those whom I have offended I apologize (write your comments below). Just please realize that I am trying to see the bigger picture and look down the road a little. I’m not saying that your services are no longer needed or that you are a lousy teacher, but that change can be a good thing for everyone.

**Revised on 2-11-2009 (Thank you Doyle).


  1. Having had several careers over my lifetime, it's hard for me to imagine someone sticking with the same job for 30 or 40 years. One of my current colleagues has been in this district for 29 years, most of them at the same school--incomprehensible to me! I vote for change!

  2. There are many teachers in our area that had planned on retiring at the end of this school year but they have put that on hold due to pension and retirement fund concerns. Many of their retirement funds have lost money and they do not feel that they can afford to retire and will therefore teach for at least one more year. I can't say that I blame them. It is a tough spot to be in.

  3. As a retired teacher who is now substituting, I can see both sides of the issue. I am also an adult educator in a hospital. PennyCandy is right about people being afraid to retire due to the economy. California Teacher Guy is also right. Change can be a good thing. (I miss your blog, by the way.) Looking back, I wish I had tried teaching special ed. For some reason, I felt compelled to stay in my same job. I think that is because of the way I was raised. In the old days (yes, I said it), people often stayed in one job for their entire careers. I am having a blast now and actually have several part time jobs. Oh, yes. The economy gave me the push, but I'm glad it did.

  4. It is a staggering indictment of the commitment to education and its funding in your community that this conversation should occur.

    Extremely sad.

  5. It is a sad indictment of the priorities of the community that this conversation should even arise.

  6. I can see your point, but I also have a mother -who with her master's degree and over 15 years of teaching- couldn't get hired as a teacher in our school system because she was "too expensive" when she tried to return to teaching after raising a family. Where I grew up, the teachers were not masters of knowledge or filled with passion like she was, and I think it was really sad someone so qualified couldn't get hired. To your point, though, she did find a job at the university level teaching teachers, making a difference where it mattered most.

  7. *grin* Your post is FINE. If I were a 30+ year veteran and some unknown neophyte wrote a blog post suggesting that veterans could help save newbie jobs if they retired, I wouldn't be the least bit offended.

    First of all, you're not insulting anyone. Nothing in the post implies that vets are lousy teachers - quite the contrary.

    Second, it's not personal. You're not telling me that *I* should retire.

    It's all good :)

  8. I have already taken your advise and retired. Seriously I retired from the Texas schools in 2005. I don't find your comments at all insulting but a thoughtful look at our current situation. I think many veteran teachers would consider retiring but are genuinely concerned with the'emotional' questions ( am I ready for retirement, What will I do with my time) and financial questions( will my pension and 403B be enough for me to live comfortably?) Maybe some teacher groups could hold seminars to talk about these issues. If any of your readers decide retiring would be a good choice I would love to have them visit my blog at http://www.myretiredteacherblog.blogspot.com/. Thanks for the interesting subject.