What you describe is soon going to be commonplace. Next year about half the teaching profession will be over 50, so some 200,000 teachers are due to retire in the coming decade. Many will at first be relieved to hang up their chalk, but may then suffer withdrawal symptoms, and loss of purpose and sense of usefulness.
Many teachers do return part-time, and often recapture the enjoyment of their early career (can concentrate on the classroom not bureaucracy, able to help others, don't take every problem home, sod Ofsted).
You might want to become involved in some organisation close to, or even completely outside, education. Remember that, as a teacher and head, you will have acquired skill at working and interacting with people of all kinds, organising, managing, inventing, communicating, evaluating. Not everyone leaves their working life with so much professional competence that can be readily employed elsewhere.
If you want to carry on working in education, perhaps you can act as a mentor to fellow heads or student teachers, probably in fresh schools rather than your former one. Talk to heads you know to see if they have any need for such work. I heard of one retired head who did valuable work with parents at a different school.
Other possibilities include Ofsted inspector (though you might lose your remaining friends), and openings under various initiatives that come up from time to time, such as threshold assessment, adult literacy, home tuition, helping children with special needs, youth work, working with young offenders or older pupils with problems.
Use your skills for voluntary work
With a demanding job as a teaching head, and family commitments, like you I found little time to develop social networks and hobbies until my retirement two years ago. I chose to do voluntary work, which I have found hugely rewarding. You can make new friends and share a sense of purpose, which is probably part of what you miss about school. Be honest, you don't really miss Ofsted, do you?
I work with children, at Riding for the Disabled and Home-Start, both of which use my existing skills and develop new ones. Your local volunteer bureau can tell you of the range of opportunities. There is something for everyone, and as ex-heads we have expertise and qualities that are in demand.
If none of this attracts you, paid work may well help to ease you into retirement. Look for a congenial school, and remember that you can never recreate what you have left. Don't take on too much, and leave time to develop fledgling hobbies, a social life or voluntary work, otherwise you could find yourself back where you started.
This new phase of your life just needs a bit of planning, and as an ex-head you have those skills at your fingertips. Once the strangeness wears off "you will wonder how you ever had time to go to work", as everyone says. I know it's trite, but two years down the line, I find it's true.
Christine Sladden, Canterbury
Try short-term tutoring contracts
I suggest you contact your LEA to explore the possibility of teaching children with medical needs. There may be short-term contracts working in the home or hospital enabling the pupil to keep up with the curriculum until they return to school.
The advantage of this work is that it keeps your mind active, and skills utilised, but doesn't require long-term commitment. You can often choose your own hours, so that you're still free to take up all those hobbies you've been promising yourself.
Kath Williams, Chester
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