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Teaching With Location Independence

Garden of the Gods, Shawnee National Forest: I sat right here as I wrote lesson plans for the week. This is Location Independence. There are a lot of new and exciting opportunities out there in education and beyond. I sold my house. I close on the last day of school. I did this to become location-independent.

What is Location Independence?

Location Independence is the ability to live anywhere and everywhere. It’s the freedom of not being tied to a particular location. It’s the freedom to live and work with choice. It’s the freedom to follow passion projects instead of available jobs in one’s area. It’s the freedom to explore the world while working and living on one’s terms.

But… where will you live?

When I tell people I am becoming location independent; this is usually the next question. Where will I sleep, shower, cook, what about my pets, etc.? There are a few options for folks who want to do this. The most common choice is to live in a mobile tiny house such as an RV, schoolie (converted school bus,) or a van, which is what I am doing.

I sold my home and most possessions to purchase a 2019 Ram Promaster 2500 159” wheelbase Cargo Van, and I will convert it to a full-time home. There are so many ways to do this, and it’s easy to get lost in a Youtube rabbit hole when searching camper van tours. I am inspired mainly by this build from Louis the Van. This summer, my partner and I will build out the van while staying on my parent’s property.

When we finally hit the road, we will have the freedom to go wherever we want. In summer 2019, we went on a 32-day cross country trip in our 1995 Astro Van, and have taken many shorter trips as well, so we are no stranger to van dwelling basics. We sleep primarily on public land such as National Forests, sometimes we get campsites, and sometimes we “urban camp” in legal overnight parking spots. We also plan on buying very small plots of land in several states to have a few home bases.

How will you make money?

There are a few things to consider about moving into a location-independent lifestyle in terms of finances. For example, my overall cost of living will significantly decrease. Currently, 60% of my income goes directly into my house, either with the mortgage, insurance, utilities, or some other homeowner’s expense. This means that I will simply need less money. I love online teaching. I didn’t think that this would be my journey, but here we are. This is good because most online positions tend to pay a little bit less, and we often have to pay for our health insurance. It’s a compromise, but it is very doable. I am also fortunate enough to have all of these wonderful people in my social network community/website who purchase my Teachers Pay Teachers products, which has made this move possible for me.

This lifestyle allows me to follow my passions. I am less worried about finding a job and more passionate about finding exciting and meaningful projects. If I continue creating digital content, connecting on social media, blogging, and just doing what I enjoy doing to contribute to the world of education-money will follow. There’s a lot of freedom and flexibility from this choice to be location-independent.

Why do I want to do this?

When I talk about my choices, some folks immediately tell me that they couldn’t do it or explain why they think it wouldn’t work. I usually respond with, “Well, no one is asking you to do this-this is just what I am doing. Sometimes that’s hard for folks because it is so against the traditional way of life they know and understand. It’s my version of the American Dream. I never truly fit in with a “traditional lifestyle.” I have a beautiful three-bedroom house in an affordable city with a great job, but this just is not for me and my mental health. I want to get out there, explore the world, and work on my terms.

This school year was challenging, and there were many things that my school district did that I disagreed with and I don’t think were best for kids or teachers. I tried to bring new ideas to the table and was consistently shut down. My administrators told me, “That’s a great idea for you, but we can’t expect teachers to collaborate and innovate in this new teaching environment- by the way, will you please write an article about how successful you’ve been with teaching online? No, we aren’t going to implement these ideas” I asked for help and was told I was too much. Some of my coworkers had to step away because their mental health was deteriorating to the point of suicidal ideations- and I was not far from that myself. I can no longer work in that environment. I’m excited about a healthier work-life balance. I believe it will significantly improve my mental health and when my mental health is in a good place, I am a better teacher.

Won’t you miss teaching in person?

Of course, I will miss teaching in person. I love my job. I love the students. I think building relationships is the best part of becoming a teacher. It is easier to do that in person. However, it is not impossible to do this online. I have found that I have a skill set for connecting with students virtually. There are resources, strategies, tools, professional development, etc., available that make virtual education effective and meaningful for students. When the pandemic hit and many schools became online overnight. Teachers were expected to “figure it out”. Schools should have turned to successful pre-existing online learning platforms to share with their teachers, but most didn’t. That meant that teachers had to figure this out overnight with limited to no help, and it’s no surprise that that did not go well. This is not the teachers’ fault but rather the administration’s fault for not innovating or investing in innovation when innovation was crucial. This has led to a negative stigma surrounding online education that I believe should not exist.

I fully recognize that not all students will do best in a virtual learning environment; however, some will. We are at an interesting time and education where school choice is a driving factor in programming. In the state of Indiana, school choice is a hot topic. Parents are using voucher programs to send their students to charter schools, and public schools are concerned about funding due to losing students. This forces many districts to find a virtual option if that’s what’s best for the students and their families. I am just happy that there are choices for students who will work better and in an online environment, and those students just happened to be the ones I believe I can more effectively teach. I’m so happy that there are teachers that prefer to work in person, but that is not my preference, and that’s okay. I’m glad I know that about myself now. I can always go back to a physical classroom if I so choose.

For me, choosing to teach with location independence is equally terrifying and exciting – but it’s far less terrifying than living and an inauthentic life.

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