Things I'll never understand: On not giving up the ghost

It won’t be a surprise to learn that I am pretty firmly in the teacher’s corner as relates to most of the educational issues of the day.  But as a teacher in the public system, there are certainly a few things that don’t make a lot of sense to me.  Here is one of those things.

My district has a relatively young teaching staff.  Of the one-hundred odd teachers in the high school where I teach, very few have been working here for more than fifteen years.  We are still pretty firmly in the first halves of our teaching careers.  

In New York State public education, all things being equal, you have to work for thirty years before retiring if you want to recoup the totality of the money that has been deferred from your salary into your pension during your career.  This is why most teachers tend to stop working sometime in their mid-fifties.  What is true for most is not true for all.  Not everyone can retire at that point, due to financial considerations (debts, or first careers).  

What I don’t understand is the population of folks who are able to retire, pension-wise, but chose to stay around after they are able to go.  I can understand a few years (my own father chose to remain in his position for three years after his 55th birthday), but get past that point, and I stop being able to comprehend it.   

As I have stated many times before, I love my job.  More than any other steady gig than I can think of, teaching is for me, but when the time comes for me to retire from thirty-odd years of public service, and enjoy whatever time that I have left on this Earth, I’m gone.

This sentiment is only compounded by the current budget situation, where younger, less senior teachers are being excessed while teachers who have been teaching for more than forty years (we have one in our district who has taught for 49!), remain in their positions.  As a carrot, my district offered an incentive this year of an additional 20K for any eligible teacher who retired.  To make it financially sound, a minimum of five teachers had to agree.  We got three.  Incentive off the table.   

I need to point out that keeping one’s teaching job past retirement age is certainly a right.  Veteran teachers have provided decades of service to a district, and are invaluable for that contribution.  I am certainly NOT advocating for them being forced from their jobs, or otherwise treated with anything less than the respect that they deserve.  I blanche at anyone who suggests anything other than seniority-based excessing practices.  All I’m saying is that I can’t understand why a person who is able to retire, doesn’t.  There is more to life than work (or at least, there are other forms of work in seniority that aren’t as mentally and physically taxing as being a classroom educator), and to pass up that opportunity seems like a sadness.  What does this need to hang on to teaching school for 50 years say about the personal lives of the people who make such a choice?  Or maybe it speaks to how much they love the gig?  

I don’t know.  And I doubt I ever will.