Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

On your own terms.

If not now, when?

Yesterday was my last day of actual teaching.

People kept asking me how I was feeling. It was a surreal sort of day. In my head of course I knew that this was the last time I was going to walk into the Theatre and teach my group of year 9s, but emotionally, I don’t think it’s hit me yet.

As I said to all the people who asked, “I honestly don’t think it’ll feel totally real until Term 1, Day 1 next year when I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and race off to be at school by 8:35.”

The year 7s and 8s were at school but they had an activity day. The year 8s rotated around different sports but I – thank god! – was with the year 7s. They had a day of indigenous activities, where they learned aboriginal games, drawings, dancing and such. Much more interesting.

I had the first 2 periods of the day with 7M, my wriggly puppies class. The middle of the day was free, so I started moving more stuff from my desk to the bins/car, and also did some hand-stitching on the quilt I’m making for Jenna, Evan24’s girlfriend.

Then I had my last real class. Year 9 Drama.

As the bell went, I walked through the staff common room calling, “Just in case anyone’s interested, I’m off to teach my last class ever!!”

There was cheering , clapping, with some people calling out, “Aw, shut up!” and others shouting, “You’ll be back!”

Otter in a basket: Just a little further then freedom."

I rounded the corner to the Theatre and the kids were gathered at the door, waiting. I saw a couple of gift bags out of the corner of my eye but I pretended not to see as I grabbed my keys and unlocked the sliding glass door.

I looked up and there were Darby and Izzy, from my semester 1 class.

“Well this is a blast from the past!” I said. “What are you two doing here?”

Atahan, who is the sweetest kid, stepped forward with an enormous box of chocolates.

“We made this a group of 3 effort,” he said. Izzy gave me another box of chocolates, while Darby handed me a gift bag with a bottle of red wine.

“Don’t ask me where I got this,” he muttered. Bloody hell, I thought. He probably swiped it from the back of his parents’ liquor cabinet…

They also gave me a card. Whenever I mark the roll, I mix up the order of the kids and the last one is always announced by, “… and the hideous blah blah blah!” Kids, once they get over the shock of hearing this for the first couple of lessons, look forward to being hideous. The three of them signed the card with “hideous Darby”, “hideous Isabel” and “hideous Atahan.”

Fortunate Frogdancer strikes again, with all of the lazy kids not bothering to turn up for the last day of classes. I had 11 really keen drama students to work with.

“Ok,” I said, once I marked the roll and Atahan was the last hideous student I’ll ever teach, “what are the games that you most like to play?”

In true Drama class form, they chose Theatre Sports games, so we had almost an hour of the funniest improvisational games. We had such a good time. Every now and then I’d join in and they loved it. Drama kids have the best senses of humour!

It was truly the best way to close this chapter of my life.

Two puppies crawling out of a pen.

At the end of the day, as the kids were leaving, a year 9 girl came up to me and said, “I heard you were retiring. I just wanted to say thank you for year 7 English. I loved coming to class that year.” She paused and said, “Do you remember me?”

“Of course I do!” I said. “It’s just that you’ve changed so much – you’re so TALL!”

I gave her a hug – we were both wearing masks so it felt safe – and I thought, wow. The kids here at this school are so lovely.

At the end of the day, as I raised a glass to myself to toast this memorable day, I felt satisfied. This may sound big-headed, but as I looked back on my career I felt proud that I did it well. I’m a damned good teacher, The kids enjoyed my classes and so it was easy to shoehorn the knowledge that they needed into their heads. If they enjoy being in front of you then the job is so much easier.

A couple of years ago I had the idea to write Dad jokes on the board at the beginning of every English lesson. That was a stroke of genius. I only wish I’d been bright enough to think of it years before. The kids absolutely loved it, and if by any chance I’d forget, someone would always ask for them.

Oh my god, how unprofessional of me to forget!” I’d say, and I’d grab the whiteboard marker. Every time I’d finish a quilt, I’d bring it in to show the kids and we’d talk about creativity and how important it is to explore that side of ourselves. When I was teaching the year 12s, I’d make timtam fudge and bring it in whenever they were doing an assessment “to keep their strength up.”

I’ll miss those little things, I think.

Yoda- inestimable value is the possession of freedom.

Adrian, one of my friends at work, was laughing at me, saying that I’m deluding myself about all of this being the last time.

“We all know you’ll be back,” he said. “There’ll be someone who gets sick or wants to go on holidays early and they’ll call you back in.”

“I’ll probably say yes,” I said. “That trip to Antarctica isn’t going to pay for itself, you know!”

Someone else, I don’t remember who, then said, “Yeah, but the difference will be that you’ll be doing it on your own terms. You don’t want to work that day, you just say no. You’ll be choosing to come here and teach. That’ll make all the difference.”

Only a week to go… I give my farewell speech at the staff Christmas luncheon on Thursday. I think I’m going to enjoy myself!

(My friend Mr Groovy wrote this post about what to expect from early retirement when he heard that I was pulling the pin. The film clip is a classic!)

11 Comments

  1. Jordan @ FIRE Your Own Way

    Wow – what an achievement leaving the classroom for the last time! Hope you’re enjoying a well-deserved rest. Look forward to seeing what you get up to over the coming months with your newfound freedom!

    Also just wanted to let you know I laughed so much at these sentences – “Bloody hell, I thought. He probably swiped it from the back of his parentsโ€™ liquor cabinetโ€ฆ”

  2. Cheryl

    Congratulations! It surely is hard to leave the classroom and teaching behind. I’ve enjoyed reading your adventures as you’ve worked towards retirement and I’m looking forward to seeing how life changes in this next stage. I’m planning to retire in June (Canadian School year Sept-June.). Of course I planned that last year too and somehow have been convinced to put in another year. I’m also a teacher but have worked at our Division Office for the last thirteen years after 21 years in the classroom. I love my work but I’d also like to make a dent in my quilting stash and have the day to spend as I wish.

    • FrogdancerJones

      That quilting stash thing and the utter freedom to spend the days as I wish were huge driving forces for me to work towards retirement. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Aussie HIFIRE

    Congratulations on your last day of full time teaching, not long to go till the last day of full time school! As others have said it sounds like you might be back to do some casual work to pay for that trip to Antarctica, and maybe some future trips as well!

    It must be a great feeling to almost be done, and to know that there’s probably plenty of casual work if you want!

    • FrogdancerJones

      That’s the great thing about teaching – there’s always CRT, exam invigilation and tutoring if you need or want it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Shaun

    Contratulations.

    Like one of your colleagues said – you may be back one day.

    and if you choose to, it will be on your terms, because you want to, not because you have to….

    Enjoy Antarctica

    Shaun

    (PS – I loved the ‘Freedom is Groovy’ article)

    • FrogdancerJones

      His posts ruffle a few feathers a times but he and Mrs Groovy are the loveliest people. We had such a great day last year when they were in Melbourne. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Kristen

    Congratulations! I’m looking forward to hearing what you’re up to in retirement!

  6. Avital

    I’ve been reading your blogs for long time (13 years?) and just want to say congratulations for reaching this milestone and wishing you all the best in your next chapter. It warmed my heart to hear that you were well appreciated for the years of investment into the education of so many growing minds.
    xoxo
    Avital

    • FrogdancerJones

      …and you only comment after 13 YEARS?!? Wow! You’re someone who clearly knows how to bide their time! ๐Ÿ™‚

      You, more than most, will know how truly unforeseeable being able to retire so early was. We were on the bare bones of our arses ( to put it bluntly) for many years before I was able to claw our way out of the financial hole we were in when I left my ex.
      I’m sitting here, having just finished my morning coffee, just letting the realisation sink in that wow – this really happened.
      Whoever would have thought?

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