I saw my doctorate as an end in itself, the fulfillment of a goal, the culmination of a teaching career and resulting from practice rather than leading to practice. Yet, having now attained my goal later in life and career, I need to do something with it. I am no longer satisfied with simply retiring.
2016 was a wonderful privilege – a year on full pay, thanks to an NZTeach Study Leave Grant. I was able to retreat from the classroom and write up my research in a relatively comfortable and unpressured place and space. I thrived. In contrast to the tales of others, I thoroughly enjoyed my doctoral journey because, in addition to my love for teaching, I love to write.
Although one or two colleagues have asked me what next, it has mainly been family members who have not understood why I would return to the classroom where I was before and have been during my expensive six year journey. So why have I chosen to return?
- I love French and I love teaching adolescents, especially when the experience results in the friendly smiles and enthusiasm for learning that I experience on a daily basis.
- I love mentoring first and second year teachers and learning from them as they learn from me.
- I love the rhythm of the school year: the four terms, each with a different focus and punctuated by holiday. I love how each new year allows a fresh start with new students, new programmes and sometimes even the challenge of a new subject.
- I love the professional development required for registration which means learning and growing and the privilege of time to do so.
- I love being surrounded by intelligent, passionate colleagues who all want the same as I do, the best for our students, and who work hard to achieve that.
- I love being independent and responsible in my own classroom, albeit with accountability and appropriate checks and balances.
- Finally, as a teacher-administrator on a reasonably comfortable salary, to move to so-called higher ranks, such as university teaching or ministry positions, I would experience a significant drop in salary.
So I have returned to the classroom with not much changed except my title. However, I continue to practise, enlightened by my findings and learnings, and share those findings and learnings in small ways with colleagues, at conferences and perhaps, in the future, in journal articles.
As I was exploring my unsettledness immediate post-doc, I did get in touch with Dr Deborah Netolicky, who writes the édu flâneuse blog. She also completed her doctorate as an established educator and returned to a school environment. So I asked her what she does to share her knowledge. She spends her holiday breaks writing.
So, inspired to do the same, the last holidays I gave two presentations at an international languages teacher conference, and the next holidays, I will convert them into journal articles and offer them for publication.
Teacher and writer. Yes, I like it. In fact the writing of this article has settled my restlessness. I was a teacher. My doctorate has led me to be a teacher and writer. I will retire to write. This current phase, therefore, is a meaningful period of transition leading to a new and exciting phase as a writer in retirement.