Today is the last day of classes for years 7 and 8. We’ll have a week and two days of activities and curriculum days, then I’ll have 5 weeks of sweet, sweet holidays. Five glorious weeks where I can do whatever I want, whenever I want and I won’t hear a single school bell. Hmm… sounds a bit like retirement, doesn’t it?
I still really enjoy teaching. My days are varied, the kids make me laugh all the time and I’m good at what I do. Next year my year 12 Theatre Studies class is doing ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, which is one of my favourite plays, so I have that to look forward to. I already know that I’m teaching years 7, 8 and 9 English. I enjoy the wriggly puppy classes and it’s what I was doing this year, so there’ll be no surprises. 2019 should be a pretty good year of teaching.
So why am I so eager to reach the ‘Retire Early’ part of FIRE?
Have a look at the screenshot above. I get to work at around 8AM every day. I could arrive later but since the day my car’s side mirror was torn off by a car when I parked in a side street, I prefer to get to work early enough to get a park in the staff car park. This means that I get up at 5:50AM to spend some quality time with the dogs on the couch, reading and snuggling, while I drink my coffee. I do the reading, they do the snuggling.
My commute is never under 40 minutes each way and is sometimes a bit longer. I don’t really mind this, because I listen to podcasts, but it takes another big chunk out of every day.
After work, we have to stay late most nights. There’s always a meeting or marking to do. I’ve learned that if I optimistically take correction home, it tends to stay in my bag so all I do is bring it back to work the next day. So I do all my marking at school.
From the moment the locker bell goes at 8:35, our days are scheduled to the minute. The classes are at weird increments of time and we have to be at the classroom door precisely on time to start the classes. Those darned kids aren’t going to teach themselves! The bells rule our days and the 2,300 students and the 300 teachers all behave like Pavlov’s dogs whenever one rings. I’m not saying we drool, but as soon as that bell goes, bums are off seats and we’re all halfway out the door, ready for the next bite-sized chunk of the day.
If you’re a teacher who couldn’t get to the bathroom during recess and you’re now halfway through period 4 and you’re bursting to go – that’s too bad. There’s no way that you’re allowed to leave the class by themselves, not even when nature calls. If something happens, like a kid having a seizure, (which happened last term to the teacher who sits next to me), or a fire alarm going off, or a kid decides to throw a paper plane that hits another kid in the eye, and you’re not there to take charge – heaven help you legally…
Feeling a bit seedy and wanting to take things a bit easy that day?? Don’t do it – the kids will smell weakness and they’ll eat you alive. You have to have your game-face on all the time and be high-octane full-tilt boogie-woogie. This is why most teachers make it to the end of term/the year and then spend the first week of the holidays being ill.
Personally, much as I love the actual teaching part of teaching, I’m beginning to want to live my life in a less structured way. After all, it’s not often that I’m lying awake, breathlessly waiting for the alarm to ring at 5:50 so I can get up to go to work.
Imagine waking up naturally on a Monday morning?
I’d like to choose for myself which days are jam-packed and productive, instead of getting my timetable for next year and finding out that the timetabler has decided that Wednesdays and Thursdays in 2019 are going to be the busy days, while Mondays and Tuesdays are the days where I’ll have some breathing room.
Much as I love my students, sometimes I think that it’d be nice not to live my days surrounded by the hormonally challenged. The latter part of year 8 until the middle part of year 10, when the kids are 14 – 16 years old, is when they go slightly irrational. They’re growing like weeds, which takes a huge amount of energy, they’re being flooded with hormones and they bounce from childishness to maturity and back again with bewildering speed.
This is all very tiring for the kids, but they’re not the only ones suffering. I call myself an extroverted introvert, which basically means that I can enjoy the company of other people, but I hugely need time on my own with just the dogs to recharge the batteries. Those students can suck the vitality right out of you if you’re not careful.
Imagine having a week where I didn’t even have to leave the house, if I didn’t want to? Where, if that happened, I didn’t have to devise a week’s worth of lesson plans and have work ready for all of my classes to do while I was away?
Where I could choose to have a nanna nap after lunch for 30 minutes or so, without it being considered unprofessional to do it in front of a class?
Where I could quietly plan a holiday overseas AND BE ABLE TO GO OUT OF SCHOOL HOLIDAY TIMES??? The unfettered freedom of having the whole calendar open to me… I can barely fathom what it must be like! All of those cut-price airfares – we teachers never get to enjoy them.
I’m rapidly reaching the stage where I want the freedom to be able to choose what my days will be like. I don’t think I’ll be bored – as long as there are books, the internet, my hobbies, my friends and my dogs in the world, I’ll be fine. Oh! And the boys, of course!! Nearly forgot about those people I made…
The reason I like teaching as a career so much is that I hate being micromanaged. Hand me the curriculum, I’ll walk into the classroom and close the door and I’ll teach it the way I want to teach it. I’ll do a great job, the kids will learn and be inspired, we’ll all have a laugh and I don’t have anyone looking over my shoulder, nitpicking how I do things.
This has been a good gig from that perspective for years now. But I’ve reached the stage where that’s nudging into being not enough autonomy for me.
For me, FIRE means freedom. Freedom to be ferociously busy or terrifically lazy – whatever I feel like being that day. Freedom to dress how I like on a weekday. To never have to do a performance review again or fill in PDP documentation. To go for a walk on the beach in the middle of the day or jump on the train and go to an art gallery on a Thursday morning – just because I feel like it.
I’ve already reached FI. But I want to be sure that I can travel every year of my life, so I’m continuing to work for now. I’m doing projects around the house so that when I DO pull the pin on work, I won’t have to spend money on renovations. I’ll be free to spend it all on anything I want.
I’ve spent the last 21 years being a single parent to my 4 boys. I’ve worked full-time for 16 years in a job that, like parenting, requires a huge outflow of caring and focus. I’m now 55.
FIRE means time for ME.
Is it any wonder I can hardly wait?