Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

So what’s it like to go back to work?

It’s been 15 months since I hung up the whiteboard markers and walked out the door towards sweet, sweet freedom. I’ve enjoyed every minute.

The absolute and total control over my time has been the best part, closely followed by the lifting of almost all of the time-stress I had in my life. If something doesn’t get done, suddenly it’s no drama. I have all of tomorrow to look after it. Or the next day.

Weekends have turned into just another two days, instead of frenzied errand-running and housework days. I can’t tell you how nice it is.

So how has it been, going back to work for the last couple of days?

Surprisingly good.

Though maybe it’s not so surprising. I really enjoyed lots of things about teaching. The banter with the kids, (most of) the people I worked with, and the liveliness of the place. Working with lots of young people around will definitely have a bright vibe.

It was the other things that drove me out. The increasing micromanagement in the classroom, the increased data collection and marking… not to mention the increasing number of meetings. Not to mention a pandemic with no vaccines.

Interestingly, these hideous things are NOT a part of being a CRT, (Casual/relief teacher for anyone unfamiliar with this acronym.)

On Wednesday I was working at the new campus, which is a place I’d never been to before. Walking in, I was instantly greeted by a woman I’ve known for as long as I’ve been working at the school – she’d been doing CRT work for at least 19 years. She swept me under her wing and showed me the ropes.

For some reason my details weren’t logged onto the system, so I hot-footed it to the techs. One of them turned out to be one of my beautiful Year 12 Theatre Studies students from my last class. He was unsurprised to see that I had tech troubles, even though this time I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I think computers just smell my fear.

This new campus is home to over 900 year 8 and 9 kids. I don’t know any of the year 8s, but a surprising number of the year 9s were racing up to me in the hallways and talking to me. They all look TALL – and their faces are different, getting the angularity of adolescence. It was so heartwarming to see them again.

The best thing, though, was settling into conversations with people that I haven’t seen for ages. Catching up on how our families are going – actually, quite a few people taught my boys when they were at the school – and hearing how people’s lives have been going since I left was really interesting.

One of the reasons that I put my name down for CRT at my old school was that I know the kids are well-behaved. This makes an enormous difference to a “sub”, as the kids call us. What i didn’t realise was that the new freeway extension cuts the commute from 45 – 50 minutes to 30 minutes. Talk about making a difference! That’s a huge amount of time shaved from the commute each way. I was a very happy camper when I realised.

What I found really interesting was that about midway through the afternoon, I was getting a little bored. This was a new experience. When you are a teacher with your own classes for the year, you’re actively involved with how the kids are progressing. CRTs don’t have that level of active engagement with what’s happening with the kids’ lessons.

The kids were doing a science experiment involving batteries, lights and circuits (or something) and they were as happy as clams. As I think I’ve said before, “boring” is actually a good thing for a CRT. It means everything is running smoothly. It’s when you’re a little too interested in what’s going on… that’s usually a problem.

Thursday was a day at the main campus, where I spent all of my 17 years’ teaching at this school.

First of all – What a difference in the space! Remove 900+ kids and around 50 teachers and suddenly the campus is spacious, with no bottlenecks between classes. I could hardly believe the difference it made.

Seeing so many people that I’ve worked with for years was amazing, as the bulk of the teaching staff has remained here. Hugs in the corridors, greetings as we walk past each other in the hallways… like the day before in the new campus, it was lovely.

One thing I really appreciated was knowing where everything was. There was no angst in looking at the schedule for the day, because I could picture where every room was.

The first period I watched the end of a National Theatre performence of ‘Medea’ for year 11 English. It was really good. I googled the lead because she looked familiar and it turns out she’s in ‘Peaky Blinders’, which I’ve just started watching.

The rest of the day was a mishmash of English, Media and Physics (!) classes. Thank goodness all I had to do in the Physics class is hand out a worksheet. If the kids were expecting any hints and tips from me to help them get through the lesson, they would’ve just had me drawing a sign of the cross over them and a “good luck, my child”. Physics is DEFINITELY not in my wheelhouse!

I had a yard duty at lunchtime in the Oasis, so I was glad I’d brought my hat. The year 7s were still running around like little kids, but without the 8’s and 9’s the noise and the sheer number of bodies in the space has dropped by a huge amount. A gentle stroll after eating lunch is a very civilised way to spend some time. It aids the digestion, I’m sure.

You want to know what the best thing was? After school the rest of the staff had to attend a meeting until 4:30 PM. Haha, suckers!!!!!! We CRTs skipped out of there as soon as we handed in our keys and chromebooks.

What were the downsides?

  • Obviously, getting up at 6:30 when it’s just starting to become light. I haven’t had an alarm since I retired. The dogs didn’t know what hit them – they’ve finally adjusted to a later waking time and now I hit them with this!
  • Driving in the morning, when I’d normally be doing yoga or lolling on the couch with the dogs. I was hoping to see some hot air balloons, but maybe they don’t do midweek flights since covid.
  • Having such a big chunk of my day being dictated by someone else. Obviously not a surprise, of course! It’s a subtle difference between idly daydreaming of the things you might be doing while you’re retired, and another thing to KNOW what retired life is like.
  • I didn’t expect the boredom factor. I haven’t been bored snce I retired. On the Wednesday, I found myself looking at the clock, working out how many minutes I had until the final bell. It felt so natural… I realised that doing this was a routine that I’d been doing for years. Talk about wishing your life away!
  • Driving home during peak hour on Wednesday. I had to run some errands for Mum and Dad after school, so I hit that dreaded time of the day on the freeway. Normally, I would’ve made sure I was well and truly done and at home before the roads filled up at the end of the day.

The upsides?

  • I’ve already spoken about a lot of them. The social aspect of seeing familiar friends and students is huge. I don’t care who you are – when you see people’s faces light up when they see you, it definitely adds a spring to your step!
  • It feels good to help kids with something. Just a little nudge in the right direction, even though I’m not a regular teacher but just a “sub”, still lifts the heart.
  • Kids still like the Dad jokes. Some things never change.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing how much my take-home pay is. I know I could work it out, but we all know that’s never going to happen! Besides, with my lack of numeracy skills, I’d probably come up with the wrong answer anyway.
  • Wearing the lovely work clothes that I bought just before the pandemic started and I’ve barely touched since.
  • Already being able to wipe a couple of items from my ‘CRT Earnings’ chart. I knew that it’d keep me motivated! That pizza oven will be paid off in no time… assuming I get more work.
  • It’s still fun to tell off kids but in a humerous way, so that they get back on task but without any unpleasantness. I guess it’s a skill that you just don’t forget.

Lots of people asked me how retirement life was going, and absolutely none of them asked the obvious question after I answered, “It’s fantastic. Happiest year of my life!” Maybe I forestalled them when I told them that with Tom30 listening to wrestling shows when he works from home, school is a lot more peaceful!! (Actually, I’m only half-joking when I say that!)

One of the teachers laughed when I said that and replied, “So you’re doing the adult thing about this problem and running away from home?”

Obviously with only two days under my belt, going back to work as a CRT is still a novelty. However, as it stands at the moment, the upsides are outweighing the downsides, so I’d happily work more days.

I was looking forward to indulging in a HUGE nap later today, though. This whole going to work gig is tiring! However, I was asked at the end of the day if I could work on Friday. You all know how hard it is for me to say no to work…

… the good thing is that the pizza oven will be well and truly paid off by the end of the day!

Dad joke of the day:

Never fight a dinosaur. You’ll get Jurasskicked.


  1. freddy smidlap

    “physics is easy, as a matter of fact even my wife can do physics.” was a joke told by one of my college physics professors. if he told that one today he would be drawn and quartered for sure. the best part was that wife was also a professor of physics.

    • FrogdancerJones

      How times have changed! Actually, she was probably a unicorn back then. I doubt many women would have been in the STEM subjects.

  2. Maureen

    How great that the part time gig is working well for you! Year 8 and 9 students were always fun to teach. I taught them physics, chemistry, and Earth science for 30 yrs.

    • FrogdancerJones

      You’re so different to me with my English, Drama and Theatre Studies! It’s such a wide spectrum with education… thank goodness. How boring if it was just Maths or just English.

  3. Jan

    Yes the physics would not be fun! The difference now is the freedom to say no if you want to and choose how many days you do – lots more control and the $$ for the pizza oven will be handy.

    • FrogdancerJones

      I’m thinking it might be nice to earn the money I said I’d kick in for David28’s wedding.

  4. Josie

    It’s great that you decided to do part-time work for a purpose, rather than out of boredom. I retire in 2 weeks and cannot imagine going back ever – an office environment is not as fun as kids! My daughter graduated in December as a teacher and decided to be a building substitute at a large school for 8-11 year olds and every week she has a funny story to share.
    My favorite: during partner work, 2 10 year old boys are clearly laughing at something on their computers. She circles around, comes up to see what is so funny and says “excuse me, we are working on math problems, not laughing at memes”. The 2 boys turn around with huge eyes and said “Miss Smith, YOU know what a meme is??!!” That did make me wonder how many of my early teachers were much younger than I thought at the time!

    Enjoy those funny kids!

    • FrogdancerJones

      Haha! A couple of years ago a year 8 kid who saw my laptop’s screen yelled out, “Hey! She’s got a FOLDER for MEMES!!!!”

      • Josie

        gotta love the innocence of kids 🙂

  5. Flirby

    Sounds like a great few days, how lovely to be welcomed back and get to enjoy the fun bits without too much of the not so fun bits.

    And even better, you can pick and choose when you next feel like doing it all over again.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Already picked up 2 days this week!

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