Senescence is the condition or process of deterioration with age. The word derives from the Latin senex meaning old.
Perhaps senescence is built into careers and relationships just as it is built into the human body. As we age, things just stop working or go wrong and we senesce.
No known substance can extend life and so there might be little we can do to change the organic process of growing older. However, it’s incredibly important that we don’t let our teaching deteriorate. We can extend our teaching lives by looking after ourselves by feeding our physical and mental wellbeing. Teachers don’t have to senesce.
Some teachers teach well beyond the traditional retirement lines drawn by society and keep on going because they are determined to fight senescence. Aging workers can remain motivated, productive and healthy by mindset alone.
Take as an example 83 year-old Marilyn Fairclough. She has been teaching for 54 years and she has no intention of leaving the classroom until she’s 98. And why not? This is a perfectly healthy way of not allowing the biological ageing process get in the way of what she loves to do – it’s a way of life.
Whilst most teachers are scrambling to leave the classroom or retire early, some aren’t and are desperate to stay in it. John Clifford is a secondary school teacher “who’s still plying his trade at the grand old age of 80” because teaching makes him feel young.
90 year-old Irene Basham has been teaching since 1947 and like Marilyn and John has no plans to retire either and is keen as ever.
How do we bottle this motivation and enthusiasm? What makes some teachers want to carry on and others want to quit?