Last year we began a series of articles about teachers who have made the decision to use their teaching skills and continue to teach in some way after their retirement from the education system. We started the series called “Learning and Teaching – Always” with a profile of Robert Bateman, world-renowned wildlife artist and environmentalist who continues to educate in one way or another (March/April 2013), and continued with an interview with Michael Munro who accepted a position in Qatar when he left his job in Canada (May/June 2013).
In this and future issues we will continue to profile people who, whether working at home or elsewhere, have made the decision to continue to teach after retiring from their primary careers within the education system. The variety of positions held by these people are wide-ranging, as are the reasons for leaving the educational mainstream and making the decision to continue to be involved in education. This involvement can take many different forms, both paid and volunteer. The decision to continue to teach in some format is not particularly surprising given that teachers enjoy imparting knowledge and eagerly look for new challenges.
Barbara Allisen was fairly sure about her retirement plan, so after she and her husband purchased a second home in Ecuador as part of that plan the time seemed right to move on and explore. Barbara knew that being out of the daily, albeit enjoyable, grind of regular teaching would give her the time and space to fully explore and develop her plan of writing children’s books. However, like Topsy, her plan whirled and changed so that her interest and ideas about child development and pre-school programs soon became the impetus, and eventually with the help of new technology, her retirement took on a different focus. While her innovative ideas have helped her create a radio program, Barbara has also authored a book for parents and one eBook for her students.
Following are Barbara’s answers to questions that we hope you will find interesting and informative about how a grain of an idea can be just the ticket to help you chart the right course for your retirement.
What was your original area of work in education?
I taught Kindergarten and French Immersion.
Approximately how many years did you work within the educational system in Canada?
By the time I retired I’d formally worked in education for 30 years.
Did you work outside of Canada or in another field besides education and if so, where/what?
I only worked in Canada, but prior to becoming a teacher I was a flight attendant.
What type of education focused work are you now involved in?
Currently, I have a website and blog with a play-of-the-day for preschool children. I have also authored a book titled, 1 2 3 Kindergarten: Everything Your Child Needs To Learn Before Kindergarten. As well, since my retirement I have done early learning and kindergarten readiness presentations and I have a weekly radio show called, “Learn and Play with Mrs. A” on the RockStar/Toginet Radio Network, that airs live on Mondays from 9 to 10 a.m. PDT and 12 noon EDT, and it is also available on podcasts and in iTunes. For pre-schoolers I have an eBook on Kindle called, “Pig Goes First” and there will be some more stories coming.
What were your reasons for deciding to continue to work after your retirement from your primary career?
The most sensitive time for brain development is between the ages of 0 and 5 years. In order to build on this critical period, we need to support children before they arrive at school. That means supporting families. Many parents would like to help children learn, but do not know how. As a kindergarten teacher, I have seen the difference that reading books to kids at home, counting the steps to the bus, and watching the ants cross the sidewalk, can make in terms of early learning.
What made you decide on this particular type of post-retirement work?
Talking with parents and caregivers is something I can do and it helps me stay involved. As for the radio show, that was a moment of unguarded enthusiasm. Having an Internet business; that was supposed to be easy!
What challenges did you encounter in your new endeavour that you did not expect and how did you deal with them?
I had no idea that the learning curve for creating an online presence and social media was so steep, nor did I think that having a business required such a different set of knowledge, skills and strategies. I often have to say to myself, “Just because I don’t know how to do this, doesn’t mean I can’t.”
What have been the rewards of your new endeavour?
For a start, I don’t have time to miss being in the classroom! Both the website and radio show have created connections to people all over the world and not just in the early childhood community. I no longer feel quite so clueless when it comes to technology. (The financial reward is mostly still potential.)
What impact if any has your choice had on your life in general?
The project pile that I was going to tackle when I retired hasn’t diminished at all.
Were you ever worried that you might have made a mistake in your choice? If yes, did you have a Plan B – what was it?
Yes! In particular, the Internet is changing constantly and I had to accept that there is always more to learn. Just about the time I get one piece in place, it seems several more appear. Now, I have to figure out how to make my website mobile-friendly. Plan B? My Plan A was to write children’s books and look how that grew. I don’t dare think of a Plan B.
Did your new position require special training and if so what was it?
Lots of special training. Lots and lots and lots of special training! For example, how difficult can having a radio show be? It’s just talking! I didn’t know that I could accidentally bump the control switch for volume just by taking off my sweater and so not be able to hear my guest. Simple, but I didn’t even know I had a control switch for the volume! And the world of hashtags for Twitter is harder than learning a second language!
How has your background in education aided you in what you are now doing?
In my case, it is very much the same field. However, when my website was hacked recently, like thousands of others, I didn’t have much previous experience that could help.
How long do you intend/hope to be doing the type of work you are now doing and why?
I hope that the learning curve evens out so that I can ease back on the intensity, but I want to continue with the writing piece for as long as I can.
What advice would you give to other educators interested in pursuing the same type of work that you are involved with?
Tackle the To Do project list before, because there sure won’t be any time after! For any Internet or online projects, it is essential to find mentors….And geeks.
Any further thoughts or comments about your retirement choice or any specific requests of our readers?
Any retired teachers who are comfortable with Twitter, SEO, Webinars, Google+ and Hangouts could you please send me an email? I can trade some blog posts… and chat!
While researching our book Transition to Retirement: the Uncharted Course as well as in follow-up talks with workshop participants and correspondents, we became aware that each person’s retirement is unique. That is because only you can choose what is right for you and even then it can change once you actually begin the journey of exploration, as did Barbara. Initially, she thought her retirement would involve writing children’s books, but that decision led to another and in her case, it was her choice to continue to teach using social media. We’ve also read that Barbara’s decision has not been regretted and her retirement has proven to be delightfully challenging, rewarding, and invigorating, as will yours be when the time is right.
Next time we’ll look at someone who has made a very different choice about teaching after retirement, but nevertheless continues to use the skills that were carefully honed during years of teaching and in a unique and interesting way.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Carol Baird-Krul & Enise Olding
Carol and Enise (firstname.lastname@example.org) are the creators of a series of pre-retirement and post-retirement planning workshops: Transition to Retirement: The Uncharted Course©, Recently Retired: Charting a New Course© and Ideas… Enhanced and Advanced©, and authors of Transition to Retirement: The Uncharted Course. Previous articles on retirement may be viewed in back issues at CanadianTeacherMagazine.com.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Sept/Oct 2013 issue.