Teaching is a unique and awesome profession, which not only offers long term security, social status, and many other benefits but also presents, within the predictable routine of the school year, an opportunity for change. Teachers are constantly being asked to update their knowledge and skills throughout their entire careers.
Many teachers suffer burnout within the first few years of teaching, so what is different for those who stay with teaching year after year – even beyond the normal retirement age? Do they just remain in the profession because of the comfort of the long-term security that teaching affords?
Or is there a deeper well of inspiration that many elders draw upon – one that brings much joy and fulfilment?
More and more elder teachers come to understand how their own flavour can be woven throughout the daily routine in a way that supports everyone. This elder approach is in complete contradistinction to the belief that Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.
By claiming a different quality, elder teachers are offered the opportunity for a renewed purpose in their teaching.
With this, they are able to bring the qualities of nonjudgmental observation, of knowing what supports students and what doesn’t, along with the willingness to express openly what they know truly works for the service of all, in the education environment.
Many elders have sustained their inspiration, passion and love for understanding life, nature and the universe, and experience the joy of sharing their appreciation of the magnificence that surrounds us, and the awe and the wonder that they feel about it all. They have the ability to open this vast chest of treasure to support students as they expand their own horizons. This is often the foundation of the mutual adoration that is observed between such teachers and children, who reflect back this joy of discovery and learning, and is also why these teachers adore working with children.
This establishes and enhances the sense of true responsibility of ‘giving back to the community’ that so many elders value and live by.
There is a real commitment to truly educating the next generation of children and to the significance of being an elder teacher. All this is offered with the serenity and grace developed over their many years of teaching, accompanied by their unshakeable confidence in knowing they do a great job.
They bring a quality of true connection with their students. They see their professional life through a whimsical humour and from a place of love. There is a greater sense of balance between the heart and the head, which, for a number of reasons, may not be so readily expressed in our earlier years of teaching. They have expanded their awareness of what teaching is about.
Their joy is in being aware of, and observing, how true learning is reflected back to them in the movements of their students, not exclusively in the allocation of grades. When true learning has occurred, there is a remarkable change in the way students walk, in their posture, in their facial expression, as well as a lightness in their overall demeanour. These are the reflections of students truly enjoying and making a full commitment to their learning.
From their decades of experience, the predictability and continuity of teaching has become a foundational rhythm, which is ever expanding, and ever deepening, building upon the connections and relationships developed with students, colleagues, parents and the wider community.
Could it be that the deeper well of inspiration that many elder teachers draw upon resides in the quality of elder energy itself?
This energy of rhythmic steadiness and grace naturally flows through the connections and relationships elders build upon every day and is expressed as a genuine giving back of all that they know, and all that they are, within their schools and communities.
All of this is what inspires us to continue teaching . . . long past our retirement due date!
Ruth A. and Colleen H., Australia