Ask a teacher

24th August 2007 at 01:00
At a colleague's retirement lunch, a teaching assistant asked me: "When do you retire?" Was the teaching assistant being insensitive? My response was: "Not until I'm 65". How would others reply?

Jenny, Worcestershire

A I would be neither perturbed nor offended. In my experience, teachers of a certain age are obsessed with "reckonable service", "lump sums" and "actuarially reduced pensions". Indeed, this subject is a sure-fire way to liven up any meeting involving teachers. Anyone would think we are a bunch of time-servers hanging on for the sake of our pensions. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. Sheila, Worthing

A Talking about pensions is a great bonding device for teachers, so perhaps you should interpret the incident in this context. As for your plan of retiring at 65, good luck to you. Given the number of teachers who don't last until 60, that's the real talking point. Kevin, Cheltenham

A Your colleague's question was typical, rather than insensitive, but your reply was excellent. As a 50-plus teacher myself, I would see it as a chance to help change attitudes. I would explain that there is a great deal I want to achieve in the coming years; or that I am excited by the school's latest purchase of an IWB for my classroom; or that I hope to be teaching Year 6 at the time of the 2012 Olympics. In a friendly conversation, no one wants to be over-concerned with a PC attitude. Nevertheless, the retirement of ageism, prevalent in our profession, is long overdue. Eileen, Kenilworth

A You are probably quite unusual in your publicly pronounced intention of soldiering on until you are 65. The time horizon for most is 60 and many will want to take advantage of the new and more flexible provisions of the teachers' scheme which kick in at 55. All of which is to say that the nearer we get to retirement, the more it becomes an obsession and one which we seem to be happy to share with all and sundry Stephen, Canterbury


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