Over 26 years of working as an instructional assistant, I've watched teachers retire in waves. Retirements never cease, but there are particular moments in the U.S.'s education history when retirements peak.
One of my first memories of witnessing a peak was when the school I was in changed to "blended classrooms". Blended classrooms were a big trend at that time. We were told about all of the educational benefits, but (I believe) the real reason was to level out the student numbers. Very helpful, when you have grades with big discrepancies in enrollment. Sadly, not all students are independent learners--an enormous advantage if you're a student in a blended classroom. Plus, it requires most teachers to scrap their foundational curriculum and teaching methods.
Can you imagine? Starting over whenever those in charge want to try something new? Change is good, but excellent support during those changes would leave fewer folks wanting to jump ship. And jump ship is what teachers do, when they feel the extra emotional cost and number of donated evenings and weekends is more than they can handle. So they walk out the door to begin the next stage of their lives, taking all their accumulated experience and knowledge with them.
We tell ourselves these retired teachers will be a community resource: coming back to substitute or volunteering where their experience and desires lead them. But once gone, they're cut off from the flow of new ideas. And the rest of us have lost our resource: an experienced insight into the so called new ideas that come around every few years. The retirees lose their status in the education community, as well.
What spurred me to write this post? One of our school's most charismatic, vibrant, resources is leaving at the end of this school year. My belief is that this teacher is still young (by today's standards) with much left to share.
But that's just my opinion.