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  • Writer's pictureZach

I am a teacher, and I NEVER want to retire!

Updated: Feb 22, 2019

there's nothing like this job

This summer, I really didn't want to go back to the classroom. It was so relaxing and stress free driving around the beautiful parts of California with my mom and brother, no real things we HAD to do, no lesson plans, no grading. I slept in every day except for like 3 the whole summer. I was blissed out.

Point Reyes stole my heart

And I was worried. Big changes had happened at my school. New ownership, new administration, new 8th grade team. Those had been the key features in making last year one of the very best of my career, and they were all scattered to the wind. Trepidation reigned.

It didn't help that I was reading every article I could get my hands on about Financial Independence and Early Retirement. Those lessons seeped into my obsessed little pores, and got me all antsy in my pantsy to build my net worth and get out of the workaday world. It was a one-two punch with a result of pure reluctance.

Then inservice came around. Meetings, strategies, trainings, procedures, more meetings, new bosses to figure out, old insecurities about not quite resolved issues, did I mention meetings? None of them felt wasteful; it wasn't busy work, but it sure wasn't teaching. Inwardly I groaned, and a bit of an existential mini-crisis set in. Why was I doing this? I did NOT want to be spending my time this way. I did NOT get into teaching to go to meetings.

Then, finally, the kids came back. First in dribs and drabs, ones and twos getting their uniforms or filling out paperwork, and they'd stop by to see me, and it was like a blast of sunshine through a dull grey sky. Tiny pops of reminders of why I did get into teaching, bursts of youthful light.

Yesterday, the floodgates opened and all the kiddos returned for a day of "Boot Camp". Icebreakers, summer-catch-ups, activities, assemblies. The energy returned, and all of the sudden I couldn't stop smiling. Ear to ear. All my old students who have moved on to High School came to check in and say hello and get a little reassurance that they will be ok. New students ventured out of their shells to make connections. We laughed, we learned, we played around.

Two of my awesome co-workers and a whole bunch of kids!

It was like I was turned up to 11. My vision got brighter and more contrasty. My brain fully engaged in the 200,000 decisions you make as a teacher each day. My activities and lessons went off with the smoothness of 15 years experience and nice kids. The serotonin FLOODED my synapses. I was alive again.

Several people commented to me that it was so great to see my smile and hear my laughter and enthusiasm, and they were NOT wrong. I'm not very good at hiding my emotions, and they definitely noticed a shift from inservice to teaching. I sure have as well. It's why I get out of bed in the morning and try hard to be the best teacher I can be. It's my purpose.

And that, right there, is why I don't ever want to give it up. This is what I was put on this earth to do. I've known it since the first moment I stepped in front of a class when I was 20 years old, there was a resonant frequency I tuned into and it just makes my whole life hum. It's never stopped. It's why I don't want to become an administrator or teacher coach or curriculum coordinator or anything other than a classroom teacher. This is the perfect fit.

Which leaves me with another question well-suited for this blog: Why pursue Financial Independence if you never want to give up your job? Why worry about being able to retire early when there is nothing you would rather do than work in a job that is more than a job, a job where you spend all day giving back and helping kids, making the world a better place.

I'm not the only person who feels this way about their career. Many people have the same sense of fulfillment. Many of them still pursue Financial Independence. I certainly still am, largely because it helps answer the question I had for years before I discovered FI: What am I saving for? I knew it wasn't really property, that didn't fit my lifestyle. I didn't want fancy clothes and I couldn't bring myself to buy a stupidly expensive car. I knew I liked (and still like) saving money more than I

liked spending it, but had no idea what my goal was.

FI gives me a reason. But more than that, it gives me a sense of security. It allows me to be VERY honest with my bosses (which my poor new boss found out last week). It allows me to know that if something happens, I have plenty of money to live on for however long it takes to find a new job. And lets be honest, I've got 15 years experience, I've taught IB, AP, both levels in each, I have a Masters and a COETAIL and a TEFL and I'm certified six ways from Sunday. It wouldn't take me long to find a new job. I've actually never been unemployed since I got certified to teach.

So the answer is that FI gives me a sense of security, but also a sense of confidence to take risks, or a pay cut, to go to a school that's a better fit for me. When you don't spend 100% of your take home pay, a pay cut may reduce the amount you save, but it won't affect the quality of your life. Especially if you derive a great deal of happiness from your work; real, lasting, gut busting joy, like I get at UAS, and that I've really gotten in pretty much every teaching job I've ever had, even the ones that I couldn't wait to get out of.

But retire? Nah, I'm gonna do this until they pry me out of the classroom with a crowbar.

If you liked this post, come join the discussion over at The Happiest Teacher Facebook Group! I would love to have your voice added to the discussion! Also, if you're into that Twitter life, come follow me!

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