How to have a happy retirement and stay connected

We talked to former teacher Anne Neville about her career in education and how she has managed to have a positive retirement from the profession.

Articles / 3 mins read

I worked in schools for over 30 years. My last full time role was as Head of English which, as you can imagine, was a challenging with a high workload! Rather than going from this role to retiring, I decided to go part time to start to wind down my work before retiring completely. 

This decision was partly informed by my mother’s experience. She was a full time teacher until the age of 65. She then went from full time working to retiring completely. She had not spent any time developing any interests outside of school. So when she retired it was like jumping off a cliff. She had lost any sense of who she was outside of her ‘teacher identity’ and didn’t know what to do. Consequently, she struggled with her mental health.

Develop your interests

Teaching is like a black hole. It takes a lot of time from us. We all feel the responsibility for the children and young people we work with and it can become all consuming.

It is really important,  for teachers particularly, as you live and breathe your career, to have an identity outside of school. So I would advise developing an absorbing passion of your own outside of school, which you have to be present at and/or commit to. Otherwise you will cancel! You need your own life outside of education to allow you to be you and not just your teacher identity. For me, being a teacher is like playing a role, but you need to remember to be you, too. You’re a human first, a teacher second.

I was very lucky to have an outside interest I was passionate about - amateur dramatics - so when I retired I still had that and devoted more time to it. Retirement gave me the time to direct — and I even became the artistic director of the biggest amateur theatre company in the country.

I would recommend that all teachers develop an outside interest that they can focus on and spend time doing away from school. This is true for teachers and education staff throughout their career, but particularly as they near retirement.


Anne on stage

Keeping connected

When I retired I certainly did not miss the marking – as an English teacher this was very time consuming – or the meetings and data inputting. But what I did miss was the contact with the students and seeing them grow and learn! My pupils have gone on to do amazing things and I have such pride in them. I also missed the connection with my colleagues.

So along with spending more time on my interests, I have maintained some connections with education. One of the ways I do this is through private tutoring. This has kept me in touch with the curriculum, exams and more importantly, allows me to still have the joy of seeing my students’ lightbulb moments!

I am also an exam invigilator. This has helped me to keep a connection with my school community and former colleagues. I can be a sounding board for them, allowing  them to vent about the challenges they are facing!

Several of my  retired colleagues and I  have also formed a walking group. We meet every week to chat and gossip about school! It has also become a bit of a support network and those who have just retired are also being invited to join so there over 20 of us meeting now.

I also keep up to date with what is going on in education by reading and watching the news. I also subscribe to the Education Support monthly email newsletter to find out about the latest challenges facing colleagues in education and how they can be supported. I send this on to my friends and colleagues who are still working in education.

It is amazing how much the charity does to help teachers and education staff. To support colleagues with their mental health and wellbeing, I have set up a monthly donation and a gift in my will to Education Support. It is my way of giving back to the profession I loved for so many years.

So to all teachers who are thinking about retiring, or have retired – remember you don’t have to turn your back on teaching completely. There are ways of keeping connected, if this helps you to feel happy in your retirement. It certainly works for me.

Anne Neville speaks about retiring from teaching
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