Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

I went back to work to see what it’s like- so you don’t have to!

I was searching through “school memes” to find an image for this post and then I saw this one. It’s perfect! Retirement means never having to know which day it is unless you choose to, while being a teacher??? That damned timetable changes day by day so you have to keep track of which day it is.

When I retired at the end of 2020 I had no intention of ever setting foot in a schoolroom again. It wasn’t that I hated teaching – I still really enjoyed being in the classroom and mucking around with the kids. Teenagers are hilarious and never a day went by where I didn’t have a huge laugh from something my students said or did.

The school I taught at is a large school in a wealthy middle-class suburb where the parents and kids are pretty aspirational. The kids are polite, well-behaved and anxious to learn. (Of course, there are a few exceptions but they truly are the exceptions.) Being in the classroom here is usually a pretty nice place to work.

What drove me out was the insidious creep of admin work that kept increasing year by year. The reports. Not school reports that kids have always had… other reports. The data collection. Then the reports on the data collected. Meetings that were suddenly mandated by the government, so even when there was no reason to have meetings, we had to have a certain amount of them each month.

The admin stuff was sucking the fun out of the job, so when it was brought to my attention that I could actually afford to retire, I took action. This led to the best year of my life, even though it was a year full of lockdowns for Melbourne. 2021 – the year that I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

Retirement is magical. The absolute freedom over your time is something that’s so precious. Truly, if you’re working towards gaining financial independence – keep going! It’s definitely worth it.

Then I started teaching again. I wrote about why I decided to trade my time for money HERE, even though I was so happy living the retired life.

So now I’m nearing the second-last week of a seven-week contract teaching Geography full-time. I’m scheduled to come to work every day until the September school holidays, whether I feel like it or not. Sounds brutal, hey?

If you’ve ever idly wondered what it would be like to go back to work after retiring, read on! I’ve lived the experience so you don’t have to:

How does full-time teaching differ from the CRT work you’ve been doing?

Instead of having a grab-bag of different classes, subjects and yard duty every day, along with no free periods, full-time teaching only has 2 yard duties a week, with some free periods scattered through the week for lesson prep and marking. I also have a desk to sit at instead of camping out in the staff common room.

The lesson plans are already done, so I just have to post them on Compass at the end of each week and ensure that any worksheets, projects or tests are accessible for the kids.

I also have to do MARKING. Surprisingly though, I haven’t minded the correction. In Geography, the kids have either got it right or wrong, which makes this subject an easier beast to mark than English or Theatre Studies. I’ve just about finished my 3 X year 9 classes work, just in time for the 2 X year 8 projects and tests to roll in. I’ll make sure I’m finished by the end of term. No way I want to have work hanging over my head when I finish this gig!

CRT is all go!go!go! during the day, but there are no meetings, marking or admin. It’s far better for someone like me who isn’t interested in climbing a career ladder.

What’s it been like going back to work every single day?

Hard. I won’t lie.

Even though I’ve worked almost every single day of term 3, CRT days seem easier because you never know when you’ll get a day off. So each day of working is a separate entity. Working this 7-week contract, knowing that apart from parent/teacher days and a professional development day, I’ll be in classrooms all day for weeks on end was harder than I thought it would be.

Especially in the middle few weeks, when the novelty was starting to wear off and it seemed like it was stretching on forever. Now, with less than 2 weeks to go, it’s easier.

Still… today is my birthday. I’m here at work. *sigh* This is only a 2 day work week for me, so it didn’t seem right to take another day off for my birthday.

I won’t get paid for the parent/teacher and professional development days that I didn’t have to attend, but they happened at the right end of the contract for me, so I don’t mind. After all, if I hadn’t taken the contract and I was just doing CRT, I wouldn’t have been hired for those days anyway.

Is it nicer to have the same classes of kids instead of teaching random classes all day?

In some ways, yes. But it’s a funny thing – even though I’ve had them for weeks, in both my head and theirs, their REAL teacher will be back with them next term. I definitely haven’t bonded with them the same way that I used to when I knew they’d be mine for the whole year.

Have there been any benefits to taking a set contract instead of casual teaching days?

The money. Definitely. Having a guaranteed amount coming in each fortnight has been nice. My super has also been given a boost, which is a sweet little bonus.

Taking this contract has meant that 2 things have happened. The first is that I’ve earned the money to pay for my Antarctica cruise, which is nice. The second is that when Tom30 needed help to get his deposit together for his new place, knowing that I had an income to pay the bills along the way made it far easier for me to give him my Emergency Fund, which was the only large amount of cash I had immediately available. It’s an unexpected perk of taking this job that’s benefited my boy.

I’m also glad that I chose to do it, just to see what it was like. Heaps of teachers do CRT and/or exam invigilation for a bit of pocket money in retirement, but not too many go back to a full teaching load, even if just for a few weeks. Now I know how I feel about it.

Would I do it again?

Yes and no.

This contract has ended up being too long for me. In one way that’s a shame, because Long Service Leave jobs like this come up all the time. It would be a sweet gig to work for a term to earn some spending money, then have the rest of the year off.

I’m normally a very happy and contented person, yet I found that there were weeks, especially in the middle of the contract, when I wasn’t happy. I was whinging to myself so much that I even started to bore myself and I had to keep telling myself off.

“No one made you do this. You said yes to this, so shut up, get a grip and be positive”

“Stop whining! It’s only for ‘x’ more weeks… it’s not forever.”

etc etc.

I think that a 3-week contract would be my limit. It’s long enough to make some nice money but short enough so that I wouldn’t feel boxed in. Sadly, most people take longer holidays than this, so I’m way out of luck on this one.

I’m thinking that next year I’ll definitely do more CRT work, but I seriously doubt that I’ll be doing it at the rate I’ve been doing it this year. 2022 was a year that the school was desperately needing people to work, mainly due to covid, and I felt like I owed the school some help. This job absolutely saved us when the boys were little and now I could return the favour.

But the relentless grind of day after day after day, running on adrenaline and routines is too hard, especially after I said goodbye to it all and had such a long break from it. I’m glad to know that I can still do it, but I’ve learned that I don’t want to.

I’ve worked out that doing one day a week would bring in enough to pay for groceries and basic bills. I’d get to see my friends and still enjoy banter with the kids. Two days a week would pay for holidays.

I have to be careful though. Given all the years of poverty that the boys and I lived through when they were younger, it’s really hard for me to knock back work, especially if I have nothing specifically planned for that day. This year, even though I have the total freedom to say yes or no to work, I haven’t refused a single day’s work offered to me.

Going forward, I’m going to have to be tougher with myself to work far fewer days to guard my happiness.

After all, I didn’t retire so I could be sitting in classrooms every day, no matter how good the money is! I’ve achieved financial independence, so any work I choose to do should be adding to my happiness, not subtracting from it.

I’m really looking forward to getting my freedom back.

Dad joke of the day:

I trapped a couple of vegans in my basement. At least, I think they’re vegan. They keep shouting, “Lettuce leaf!”


  1. FIRE for One

    Happy birthday, Frogdancer! Even though you had to work, I hope you had a lovely day and that your boys do something nice for you to celebrate.

    Congrats on having the money for the Antarctica trip – that must definitely feel good.

    • FrogdancerJones

      I’ll be glad I did it when I’m on the deck watching icebergs float by – or even better, on the ice watching penguins waddling around.

  2. Josie

    The 2 days a week sounds just about right, especially when you tie them to 2 good reasons. Would it help to talk to the school’s CRT scheduler and start seeding the idea that 2 days are your max?

    • FrogdancerJones

      Rosie would be right on board with that. She’s great.

  3. Maureen

    That was a very honest and comprehensive review of ‘going back in’. The only reason I filled out paperwork for that was in early 2021 when I was desperate to get vaccinated. Turns out I got an early vaccine by volunteering at a clinic. It was a relief not to have to go back in, so thanks for doing the research! And such a great way to pay for travel. Happy day!

  4. sandyg61

    Well thought out and said. Like you I went back to my previous employer about 6 months after retiring to help them out but not in my same role. What was 15 hours per week turned into 25 by the end of 3 months due to staff shortages and I was glad to have a caravan trip all booked to say my goodbyes. The team I worked with assisted clients with debt problems and due to Covid work stoppages it became quite depressing. I was glad to step away. After our caravan trip and with some parental health issues I simply told the director I was no longer available. I still see them for drinks, lunches or coffee and I can be a sounding board but not be involved.

    • FrogdancerJones

      I’ll have 3 months (Nov – Jan) where CRTs in secondary schools aren’t hired. I’ll use that time to decompress and have a think about whether to do it again.
      One more consideration is that Ryan27 won’t be here forever, and then I’ll be living here on my own. CRT once a week might be good company…

      • sandyg61

        Sounds like a plan. I have husband at home and also my walking group and family history group. Quiet time is sometimes cherished.

  5. Onevikinggirl

    Happy Birthday and happy fire. There would have to be a lot of cake to get me back into an office again, and it would never ever, nono ever never, just not possible not going to happen never ever in my old function. Did I mention it’s a no from me?

    • FrogdancerJones

      I might have got that impression, yes! Haha!

  6. Kathy Aylward

    Happy Birthday to you, mine is next week, Virgos….yeh!!!

  7. Kathy Aylward

    ps I ordered my pizza oven and it’s already been shipped and I’ve bought an Ikea table with a stainless steel top for it to sit on so I’ll be putting that together today. Very excited.

    • FrogdancerJones

      I still need to get a table for mine. It’s still sitting on a pile of bricks!

      • Kathy Aylward

        I got this one from Ikea…you can get the sides/front/back for extra $ to make it a fully enclosed cupboard underneath. I normally don’t have the patience to put Ikea things together however this was super easy 4 legs and pop in the two shelves.
        GRILLSKÄR kitchen island shelf unit
        86×61 cm
        black/stainless steel outdoor
        Article no: 804.889.16

  8. Jan

    Happy Birthday! It will be worth it when you’re on that trip to Antartica & it was great to see Tom get his own place – no small achievement these days! I can’t imagine going back now. I had thought I might do a half day or a day a week but each week I am unwinding more and more & when I talk to friends from work they are so stressed out.

    • FrogdancerJones

      I just had a text convo with the daily organiser. She mentioned working next term… I wasn’t exactly overcome with joy!

  9. Impersonal Finances

    I think the nice part about doing a stint for a handful of weeks like that is that it gives you an opportunity to look forward to retirement… again! I’m sure it made you appreciate where you are in life and helped reinforce your decisions (not that they needed reinforcement).

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