Volunteering After Retirement

I asked my former colleague to write about volunteering after retirement. Graciously she agreed. It interests me that she chose to write in terms of working rather than volunteering.

I’ll comment below on my perspective of our shared experience. In the mean time, read what she says. . .

Working While Retired

by Karen Careless

I know that this statement seems like an oxymoron. How can one retire and still work? I was put in the uncomfortable positions of HAVING to retire much sooner than I was emotionally ready.

My physical well-being (I have Multiple Sclerosis.) was beginning to cause me a tremendous amount of fear. I could cope with the day-to-day routine but things like fire drills scared me to death. I was responsible for 23 children in the event of an emergency. Getting myself safely to the designated spot was enough of a challenge.

So I made the uncomfortable decision to retire early. It really wasn't that early as I was 55. My physical challenges allowed me to consider retirement as a viable option. Financially I could cope but it was my sense of who I was that I couldn't let go of. I always envisioned myself as a teacher. It was my identity and in so many ways it was how I defined myself.

I needed to make a shift in my thinking and doing if I was going to survive. I was VERY fortunate in that my superintendent suggested that I go on disability insurance and continue to do what I was good at. So I became an energetic and enthusiastic volunteer. I could do so much without the worry of responsibility. I know this option is not available to everyone. I would not recommend my disease, but it did allow me some flexibility. I could consider volunteering after retirement.

I relied on past colleagues to want me. It was so easy to step into the classrooms of those I knew and admired. I was able to pick up on behaviours and needs very quickly. (25 years of experience was not going to waste!)

I found it very satisfying to know immediately who to stand beside and who to offer assistance to. And I gave words of encouragement to those who needed them. I believe this was a relief to the classroom teacher because she didn’t have to tell me every detail of what to do. It felt so good to be appreciated.

Even the children were willing to accept my knowledge. Somehow they knew I knew what I was talking about. Perhaps it was my own confidence that gave them awareness.

So I embarked on a new career. I was thrilled that my talents could be used and appreciated. I now had a whole new group of kids to meet in the supermarket. I didn't feel like I was being put out to pasture. I could enjoy and celebrate my abilities, while at the same time I recognized that some days were better spent at home.

Do I recommend this method of easing out of the profession? That is an impossible question to answer as each individual has to ask himself or herself if it's the right personal choice. Volunteering after retirement is such an individual choice. It works incredibly well for me. I wouldn't dare to be so brazen to suggest it for anyone else. I love it but then that's me.

©2006 Karen Careless Used by permission.

Although I’m not at all happy that Karen struggles with MS, I am thrilled that she is willing and able to come back to our school and share her amazing gifts as a teacher and colleague.

The students lap up the attention Karen gives them. Little hearts snuggle into her warmth. Struggling students blossom under the individual attention she gives them.

If volunteering after retirement is good for Karen, I’m glad. What she’s doing is certainly good for the school.

If you love your job, you may want to consider volunteering after retirement, too.