3/24/2014

Making Plans for Retirement

The topic of retirement has been a popular one with friends lately. Hubster plans to work until he dies; mostly bc he enjoys it and can't think of anything else he'd rather be doing. Such is the life of a tenured college professor. He only teaches one class of about a dozen students per semester, and his grad students do most of his research for him. His hours are flexible and he gets all the same vacations I do, plus makes 2 - 3 times as much money. He travels to interesting places and does interesting things at his own pace. In many ways, he is his own boss. Contrast his life with mine and that of my teacher friends: in the past 3 years, we've gone from teaching 5 classes out of 8, to teaching 8 out of 10. Classe sizes have increased as well, from about 20ish to now 30ish students per class and above. (Last year I had 38 kids in one class and 185 overall.) The school day is now 30 minutes longer, and we haven't had a real raise in nearly a decade. (Yearly tiny pitances totally negated by increased health care costs.) I have gone from teaching two preps (differnt subjects) to teaching 4, and I have a "floater" in my clasroom - which means I can't even be in there to grade papers, plan lessons, etc. But hey! At least I am not the "floater!" . Believe it or not, this is not the stressful part of work, and neither are the students. I still enjoy the kids and will quit the day I don't. The stressful part comes from the endless, repetitive pointless meetings before and after school, all the extra duties that just multiply exponentially (Most days- no conference, no lunch, no bathroom break. Most summers: meetings and trainings. Most meetings : 5 versions of the same thing, in 5 different places/times, with 5 different bosses telling us the exact same things to do), the parents and other adults who make ridiculous demands ("My child needs an A!", "You lost Johnny's paper!" ,"You completed that training too quickly!", "Why is my child failing?" We are going to relocate your class to 5 different rooms in the next 4 days!" You must stop your lesson plan cycle right now-no advance notice- and bring your students to the computer lab to be trained on college preparation"), and the total insanity of our schedule, as dictated by Big Testing : we start testing in March and it goes through to the rest of  the year. That's over 1/3 of the school year spent on testing alone. (Why is testing a problem you ask? Because it shuts down the entire school: students are tested all day long, classes are moved or cancelled, some student groups told not to even attend for days at a time, others are herded into the auditorium and shown "Remember the Titans" for the 7th or 8th time, lunches are reconfigured, teachers get no conference, some kids never get lunch or get a sack lunch while still testing.....now imagine this scenario being the norm for  3 months of the school year.)

But this is not a blog entry about the ills of modern education - I'll save that for another day. This is about planning for my retirement. I have 5 years till I qualify for my pension, and am in "T-5 years" mode. Paying down debts and saving even more.. Finishing those big projects before the income stream diminishes. While I would love to stay and teach another decade (and still feel I have lots to contribute!), all the problems with education right now make it extremely likley I will retire when I hit my number. Every teacher I know is thinking along the same lines. Talk is focused on will we have enough money, what will we do next, how will we reconfigure our lives in retirement. I know many who tutor, substitute teach, started their own businesses, took on part-time jobs , stayed home with grandkids, started new schools, went back to school....the possibilities are endless.

I plan to be a radical. I've spent the past 30+ years muzzling my thoughts and ideas for the sake of being a public servant, and I am looking forward to speaking out about the things I care about. I'm going to join all the causes I never had time to support while working, and be out there in the picket lines. I'll be the granny with her hair in a bun you will see on tv being hauled away in a police car. Look for me.

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