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.
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.