Retirement speech sample

By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 04-18-2021

Refusing to rest honorably - a teacher's farewell address

The retirement speech sample below was written to show you the end result of using the step by step guidelines I put together on 'how to write a retirement speech' and, to find out just how long it took to follow my own advice!

*You can find the answer to that $64 thousand dollar question at the foot of the page.

Although my farewell address is fictional it is based on experience. In a former life, before, I was a high school teacher for many years.

The background and setting for this speech 

To give you a deeper understanding, here's the context and a little about a speaker.

The setting is a school assembly hall. It is the end of term. The staff and students are looking forward to the holidays and a rest.

The speaker is Jane Smith. She has taught in this challenging low socio-economic school for the last 25 years.

Mr Harris, the school principal, has given her a warm introduction and returned to his seat. The focus and the stage is now hers alone.

Leave - with definition

Retirement speech sample - the full text

Thank-you Mr Harris {The Principal} for your wonderful introduction.

Have I really been here 25 years? That sounds like a long time ... about the same length as a double spell of English grammar on a Friday afternoon when the sun is shining. On and on, and on.

Fortunately for you I don't plan to.

I remember coming here with my brand new teacher kit. I was full of ideas, things to do to make a difference. I thought I was the teacher and you, the students were my pupils. How wrong I was.

It took a while to understand. I was a reluctant learner. My head was so full of how things 'should be', there was very little room for how things 'were'. The gap in those early days between what I thought I needed to teach and what the students actually needed to learn was wide. There were times when bridging it was difficult: even times when it seemed impossible and I wanted to give up.

Mr Harris has been kind in saying I gave a gift of myself; my energy, enthusiasm, honesty, respect and love, to you. But I want to turn that around and give it back, for this is precisely what I feel you have given me.

I have been privileged to have had in my classroom many, many fine young people. 25 years ago some of them began to teach me how to teach.

They helped me build the first bridges. From them I learned true teaching is a special partnership. It only works when the teacher can see through the outer image, into the heart, and can understand and respect what they see. The student's role is to allow themselves to be seen, not just for who they are, or have been, but also for who they could be.

Over the years fashion has had skirts short, long, and short again. Underwear boldly became over wear for a time. Hair has come, gone, been big, cropped, technicolored, bleached, curled, straightened, extended and dreadlocked.

Despite the altering of outward appearance there has always been and always will be a constant. That is the inner need to strive for what is true and right.

I look back with gratitude. I entered a profession dedicated to assisting young people achieve their potential, to revealing or finding their best selves. As I leave it, I am taking many of you with me. You will live on in my memories. I'll always remember the things we achieved together: the many successful plays we put on, the speeches you gave, the debates and end of year concerts.

I've been asked what I'm going to do now. I'm going to do a lot of things and very few of them conform to the notion of retirement as a time of waiting for the inevitable end. Helen Hayes, put it this way: 'People who refuse to rest honorably on their laurels when they reach “retirement” age seem very admirable to me.'

Quote: People who refuse to rest honorably on their laurels when they reach “retirement” age seem very admirable to me. Helen Hayes

I am going to travel to places I've always wanted to go to and haven't been. I am going to read books that have been waiting on my 'must read' list for years. I will garden, learn new skills, play with my grandchildren, visit art galleries, enjoy being around friends... In short, I plan to LIVE.

Thank you to my colleagues for their support, friendship and for being exemplars of what it is to serve faithfully with humility. I will always remember our shared laughter, our joys, as well as our struggles. Thank-you for the never-ending supply of black coffee in the staff-room to keep me awake and alert. Thank-you too, for the notes of appreciation, words of encouragement, sharing of resources, and time but mostly for your sincerity and trust.

And lastly, I leave you with this thought. There is only ever one of each us: one Jane Smith or one Mr Harris. We are unique. We are neither better nor less than anybody else but rather the best or least of ourselves.

I am still working on finding the best of me. It is an exciting on-going journey. Thank-you for being my traveling companions along a large and important part of my way. I am forever grateful for your stimulating company and the enormous collection of shared experiences indelibly printed on my mind.

Thank-you. Happy holidays!

I hope my example retirement speech was useful to you and you're feeling more confident now about writing your own speech.

Remember there are no set rules - just guidelines which you can accept, alter or reject as you see fit.

Resources for writing your own speech

If you're feeling apprehensive, take heart. You can do this.

Go to 'how to write a retirement speech'. These are the guidelines I used for this speech sample, and start putting together what you want to say. If you need additional help there are full notes here on 'how to write a speech'

Do go through my collection of retirement quotations too. You'll find a broad and varied selection of one-liners plus verse. Some are warmly funny while others are sharp. There's sure to be something here for you.

*How long did this speech take to write?

Image: water color painting of an alarm clock. Text: The bad news is that time flies. The good news is that you're the pilot. Michael Altshuler

* For the time-conscious, my retirement speech sample took approximately 5 hours from planning to the form you see now.

Put in perspective against many years of work, that represents a very brief token of respect for your colleagues and yourself.

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