Retired principal Peter Swalwell says that, on a given day, its not uncommon for
the schools in Peel to be almost 200 teachers short. Like many boards, Peel has recently
decided to allocate more funds for supply teachers.
College Registrar Margaret Wilson recently wrote a letter aimed at members who retired
last year. She reminded them that almost 50 per cent of the qualified teachers in the
province will reach retirement age by 2010, and writes, "I urge you to consider
returning to the classroom on a part-time basis ... Your years of experience are
invaluable ... By working together, we can ensure that only qualified and well-trained
teachers educate Ontarios children."
Why would a teacher, taking a well-deserved rest from 35 years of lesson plans and
forms-in-triplicate, want to head back to class on a part-time basis? Those who have find
they reap their own benefits while helping others.
"Designer teaching" is the term Linda Bell uses, because occasional teaching
allows her to choose the schools she wants, the days and the grade levels. A French
immersion teacher in her mid-50s, Bell took early retirement last fall, only to find she
was too young to retire. She felt the change of pace was disorienting and underwent a
short "grieving period."
In high demand as an experienced immersion teacher, Bell was soon snapped up for
occasional teaching by her old schools in the former East York board. By filling in two or
three days a week for colleagues, many of whom she knows, she combats isolation and
loneliness, acquires a sense of accomplishment, keeps her mind alert, has time to attend
to family matters and pays for her green fees and theatre tickets.
Most importantly, says Bell, her occasional teaching bridges the gap between the 85
factor and the 90 factor, giving her almost as much income as she would have kept after
tax if shed worked a bit longer. At the rate of $140 a day approximate
take-home pay, after tax she avoids depending on anyone for money, "now or
Bell likes being exempt from the responsibility of full-time teaching: the report
cards, staff meetings, yard duty, parent meetings and never-ending preparation. And she
likes the luxury of saying no if she needs to, or wants to, when the dispatcher calls.
She advises other retirees to be honest with themselves and not to return to the
classroom by default or developmental cop-out. This is a stage of life, she says, when it
may be time to try something new and challenging instead of repeating the same old
been-there-done-that. Her advice: analyze what you want and why, then take charge.
BOARDS FACE CHANGES
Ernest Morrison, human resources superintendent of Kawartha Pine Ridge District School
Board feels that his own board will have to acknowledge the special needs of retired
teachers and possibly change a few of its perceptions and policies because they want to be
seen other than as the "people of last resort."
For instance, he says, retirees would probably prefer long-term assignments to short
ones and advance notice to a last-minute call, especially one that comes at six
oclock in the morning. Morrisons board will encourage retirees to see
occasional teaching as the "thing to do" and will accommodate their needs with
new procedures, such as the right of first refusal for individual assignments.
"Its a whole new ballgame ... a sellers market," says Morrison,
who has just signed a letter to recent retirees, asking them to consider returning to the
classroom on an occasional basis to relieve the boards shortage in the coming
academic year. Although he anticipates favourable response to his letter, he knows
theres a "whole range of people out there," some of whom miss teaching and
some of whom definitely do not.
When all is said and done, Morrison says, its a pretty nice way to supplement
your income, especially when its over and above your pension.
The extra income is one of the things Bob Greenham likes about being an occasional
teacher, even though his new daily rate is less than half what it was before retirement
and his terms of employment include no holiday or sick pay.
Since October, he has taught part-time on a regular basis at the Toronto school where
he was Guidance head before retiring. He especially likes using the skills he spent years
perfecting, the human interaction with students and colleagues, and keeping up to date. A
natural-history and cooking enthusiast, Greenham believes students benefit from exposure
to a variety of teachers who bring their particular interests and enthusiasms to class.
But hes not a pedagogical Pollyanna. Occasional teaching can be difficult, he
says, especially when the class from hell thinks youre "just another jerk"
or when you show up for the delightful class A but the principal re-assigns you to the
notorious class B. Greenham likes teaching. And he wants to keep it that way. Limiting his
teaching to two or three days a week helps him to maintain his sense of freedom.
Marcelle Cardinal also likes the flexibility and freedom of occasional teaching. Only
half-kidding, she says that doing it is a constant reminder "how great retirement
is." A French specialist from Québec with 35 years experience, the retired
64-year-old recently moved to be with family in Peterborough.
For the past 18 months, two or three days a week, she has worked for the Catholic and
public school boards in the district, teaching a wide range of subjects, usually in
French, from K to 12. Although she doesnt like being asked to do yard duty on a
winter day when sans chapeau, or losing her way in a new school, she does enjoy doing a
job shes good at and the "nice second income," with which she often buys
gifts for her children and grandchildren.
Cardinal likes the decreased amount of responsibility that goes with occasional
teaching. On the other hand, she misses the long-term rewards of classroom teaching, such
as really getting to know the kids and vice versa, and seeing the fruits of her labour as
they learn and develop.
PLANNED FOR PART-TIME
For that very reason, Bob Noppe accepts only long-term assignments of at least three
weeks duration. The retired Mathematics and Physics teacher says that part-time
teaching was actually part of his plan for retirement. When he retired in 1995, Noppe was
"very leery of having a complete break from teaching" and imagined that it would
be traumatic if he did nothing but "sit around (his) property."
Now, instead of sitting around his own property, Noppe buys and sells other
peoples and combines his career as part-time teacher with that of real estate agent.
Noppe thinks the occasional Maths and Physics teaching he has done at his former Peel high
school presents few serious disadvantages, with the exception of being obliged to wake up
in the morning and, on a more serious note, forfeiting some of his free time. But the loss
of time is more than offset by his chance to "keep alive" by maintaining ties
colleagues, and staying in touch with the values and issues of adolescent development and
These four retired teachers spent years cultivating the growth and development of
others while having precious little time for themselves. Now they have the best of both
worlds, jealously guarding time for their own pursuits while sharing their expertise with
the young. If you decide to try your hand at occasional teaching you, too, may find the
for you and the next generation.