From the Ground Up

Chatting with a first-year teacher this week, a metaphor came to mind. This new teacher on my campus – and, I mean, new, as in fresh from student teaching and just three months into her first real gig – is looking to buy a small house with her fiance. They’re ready to put down some roots and a significant down payment. All of this, of course, reminded me of my own real estate (mis)adventures and, to a surprising degree, my career path.

Give me a random thought and a couple hours on a Thursday night, and I’ll give you an overtaxed extended metaphor. Enjoy.

monopoly-manThe Monopoly Guy in All of Us
(or, Six Ways a Teaching Career is like Owning Property)

1. Student teacher = Staying in a hotel
You’re really running someone else’s show, borrowing her keys and using her towels/blankets. You’ll enjoy your time at the hotel (mentor teacher’s classroom), but everyone knows you’ll be there for only a short time and it’s unlikely you’ll ever feel 100-percent comfortable. After all, none of this stuff belongs to you.

2. First two or three years of teaching = Renting your first apartment
You’re excited to have your own place (classroom), but you’re also broke and need everything, from a coffee table to kitchen utensils (lesson plans/classroom procedures/discipline strategies). So you scour Craigslist and thrift stores for free/cheap stuff and gratefully accept every hand-me-down (other teachers’ files, freebies from TpT, leftovers you mine from a retired teacher’s cabinet). Also, maybe it’s just your imagination, but it seems like the landlord (administrator) stops by frequently and at awkward times to check on things.

3. Early career = Buying a fixer-upper
Finally, you have a house of your own in a good neighborhood and you can start to relax. Yes, you have to learn to live with some annoyances like a carpeted bathroom (ew) or foil-wallpapered bedrooms (crazy five-prep job assignments or working in a portable instead of an actual classroom), but you make the best of it. Slowly, you’re able to work toward making your house a home, repainting one ugly room (revising one so-so lesson) at a time.

4. Mid-career = Major renovations/improvements to the fixer-upper
Now that you’ve lived in your house a while (taught the same course a few times), you know what works best and what needs to go. You’ll want to move a few walls (change curriculum or grade level) or even add an addition/extra square footage (start working toward your administrative credential). You might even start eyeing a different house (new classroom, new subject area, new campus?) in a better neighborhood.

5. Veteran teacher = Redecorate, again
People walk into your home (classroom) and tell you how cozy and put-together everything feels. You like hearing, “I love what you’ve done with the place,” but you’re also starting to think that a new sofa and different curtains would be nice. I’m in Year 17 and it’s definitely time to slide around some furniture or, to quote a friend and terribly mix my metaphor, grab a fresh stick of gum because this piece is starting to lose its flavor. (Say goodbye to junior-level American literature next year and hello to senior Advanced Composition? Hmm…)

6. Retired teacher = Sell the house
You. Are. Outta. There. Liquidate everything (give all of your files to that doe-eyed new teacher, perhaps) and relocate to a bungalow on the beach. You deserve it.

2 thoughts on “From the Ground Up

  1. Just wanted to say…I’m loving your blog!! I’m a student teacher for high school math and I’m loving all the tidbits and your hilarious sense of humor!

  2. Ah, thanks so much, Beverly! Welcome to the other side of the teachers’ desk. It’s a little wacky over here. 🙂

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