You graduate, and you fall right into your first teaching job. Your first year of teaching is the stuff of dreams — exactly what you pictured as a child playing school in your bedroom. You get like zero sleep, but your students draw you the cutest pictures (or, if you teach junior high or high school, your students don’t make fun of you — at least not to your face). You can see them learning, and you know you’re making a difference. You love your colleagues; your principal is supportive and energetic. You’re a military spouse teacher, and you’re kind of crushing it.
And then…orders drop.
Making Some Tough Decisions
Because the military has a weird sense of humor, chances are you won’t even get one of those convenient on-cycle moves. You’ll move in October or January. What’s a military spouse teacher to do? Do you continue teaching after summer break, knowing you’ll only be there for a few months or half the school year, at best? Do you sit at home and wait to move, watching the school bus roll by your house every morning — a giant yellow reminder that you aren’t in the classroom?
Neither scenario is ideal for you or your students, but you work to find the best option out of a pile of ehh options.
Packing Up and Starting Over
Then, it’s time to go. You gather up your classroom and all your color-coded teaching supplies and head to a new state. Hopefully your teaching certification transfers, so you can avoid proving you can teach just as well in Georgia as you can in New Mexico by purchasing study materials, signing up for pricey exams, and fronting certification costs.
You hand-deliver crisp resumes to school districts, individual campuses, and you attend job fairs. You email principals and try to market yourself as best you can, knowing no one and having an “in” nowhere — bonus points if you’re doing all this once the school year is already in session.
You resign yourself to the fact that you may need to start substitute teaching to get your foot in the door. You take what you can get for a few months, and if you’re lucky and persistent, you may just find yourself on the receiving end of a long-term sub offer.
Maybe the sub gig will be your in, maybe not, but it will keep you in the classroom and help you make connections in the school district. Keep at your job hunt, though, because midyear (following winter break), you may just catch a break.
Now, taking over a classroom midyear is not all that easy. The kids are already trained, but probably not the way you would have wanted them trained. You’ll get through it, though, and more than likely, you’ll have a contract to sign for the upcoming school year. Military spouse teachers are never going to be the tenured teacher in any district, so don’t let it shock you — and certainly don’t take it personally — if you’re the first one cut loose or moved around in restructuring. It isn’t uncommon for you to move to a different grade level or subject area within your certification or even to a different campus within the district.
You’ll likely hit your stride and have your classroom just right about the time orders drop (again). You’ll pack up your room, say goodbye to the students and staff you’ve spent so much time with and move on to mold some new, impressionable minds.
Through the cycle of nomadic teaching, you’ll likely hit some patches where you sit it out a year or two — whether by choice or for lack of job availability. You’ll tote your classroom, all neatly packed in tubs and cardboard, across state lines and oceans. You’ll reach points of purging materials (not your favorite things, obviously). You’ll entertain the idea of just giving it all away if you’ve been out of the classroom awhile; you may even follow through, but whether you’re out of the classroom a month or the better part of a decade, a part of you will always be connected to teaching.
You’ll miss it, but teaching is hard, especially when you’re a military spouse moving around constantly. Curriculum changes. More and more is expected of teachers and students alike, and it may be hard to even recognize the educational system now compared to when you left the classroom — even in a short period of time. And, let’s face it, teachers don’t get paid nearly as much as they should for all that’s required of them, especially when you factor in the hours and ink required for a job search every couple of years.
Making It Work
If you are a military spouse teacher, and perhaps a mom as well, props to you! To keep your streak going, remain flexible and open-minded. You may end up loving a school or a grade you once thought would be awful. Do your homework before you PCS. Make sure your license has reciprocity, and, if it doesn’t, figure out what needs to be done. Do research on all of your options. This article explains EdD vs PhD differences, because furthering your education is always a possibility. Also, do some research on school districts and individual schools in your new location, and get your resume out there as soon as possible. Start as a substitute if you need to; it will get your foot in the door.
And, perhaps most of all, don’t become a hoarder — even if you aren’t on hiatus from the classroom. Yes, you need teaching supplies, and there are quite a few that will be useful to you in any classroom. But, it is extremely unpractical to haul around and store in your home every single worksheet you have ever come across. You don’t need your teacher’s guide to third-grade science because, guess what, you may not teach third-grade science! Even if you do, your new school will provide you with what you need. And yes, it’s hard to build up a classroom library, but it’s even harder to lug yours around the world with you. If you’re keeping it because you’ll definitely use it, great, if you’re keeping it just in case, then purge, baby, purge!
Photo Credits: Miscellanea Photography