How long before I kick the teaching habit?

I've escaped! I am now on the other side of the school gates, unencumbered by documents, gadgets and schedules - but bereft of status. I brought this on myself by taking early retirement after 37 years in education, culminating in the headship of an outstanding school for many years.

I'm in a state of grief, as though I've lost a member of my family. I miss the chatter of the primary pupils who glowed in my omniscient presence, gazing at my outrageous earrings with awe. I miss my full inbox and the hustle and bustle of school life.

My family continue to think of me as the person who is always distracted by her own thoughts. It's my own fault: I put them second for so many years, like most teachers. My long-suffering husband (himself a retired teacher) always supported me, enabling me to progress in my career.

Since retiring, I yearn to be in the education loop. I eagerly read TES every week in an effort to stay in touch. It's become my Friday routine, part of a timetable I devised to get through the day. But no one wants to discuss the issues with me, and everyone at my old school is too busy to have cosy educational chats with a "has-been". I want to talk about the recent changes. Will my former colleagues need to change my lesson observation grid? Perhaps I could help with that?

It seems I am a creature of the institution: my brain is hardwired for educational matters. I should have prepared for retirement, sought consultancy work, but I was too busy running my school and being the mother hen.

I know that things will gradually change, but it's hard to give up my passion. I'm sure I made the right decision - I feel healthier than in the past 10 years - yet I lie awake craving my old life. When will I recover?

Carol Williams was headteacher of Hursthead Junior School in Cheshire

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