Do We Really Need a Garage? (and other things I am starting to rethink)

Today marks my fourth visit to Mineral Point, WI, the location of my new position as elementary principal. This mission focused on viewing three homes for sale in the area. Our current favorite has almost everything we are looking for: Four bedrooms, a finished basement, modern updates, beautiful landscaping. Everything…except a garage.

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Mineral Point is the third oldest city in the state. Several of the homes were built before cars were even available to everyone. The homes that do have garages are usually one stall at most. When we initially saw this house online, I thought, “No, this is not going to work. Where would we store our outdoor equipment or park our car?”

Then reality took over. The situation is that homes in Mineral Point are selling as fast as they are being listed, at least in the price range my wife and I are considering. Inventory and interest rates are low, so people are snatching up houses at asking price or better…


This experience has caused me to rethink a little bit about what educators need to facilitate high levels of student learning. There are some essentials: A safe and clean environment, caring staff members, teachers who are experts in their craft, lots of access to books and resources, and a principal who leads by example.

Beyond that, are there parts about our jobs that we have become accustomed to, but we have not realized that what we have (or don’t have) is not necessarily the norm?

For instance, I think about the school I am leaving. We are used to not having a librarian in the building most of the time. She is currently spread out among eight elementary schools and does what she can with a difficult assignment. The school is fortunate in that the library aide we hired is very knowledgeable about children’s literature. Also, teachers have been forced to read more of the current books available to kids in the absence of a school librarian.

However, the new school I am leading has a full time librarian. Besides her literary expertise, she regularly brings in technology into the classrooms to teach the students (and indirectly, the staff) about unique ways to showcase their learning using digital tools. This is something we did not have at my prior school. It’s hard to miss something you cannot remember having.

Gaining a different perspective on my professional and personal life as I move into a new position has reminded me that our currently realities are not necessarily what everyone would consider as normal. We get used to our circumstances, and pretty soon these circumstances become “the way we have always done things around here”.


I am a fan of garages. You can store your cars in there. Lawn and gardening equipment have a home. The ubiquitous fishing boat often seen in Wisconsin requires a shelter. All the toys and equipment that come with having kids needs a place of storage when they are not in use. Garages are pretty nice.

But are garages necessary for everyone? I am not a big fisherman or outdoorsy-type person. I prefer to hunker down after a day of work and write my thoughts out for reflection or possible publication (such as I am doing now). Maybe I am just talking myself out of a garage in an effort to move forward on a property that has everything but.

If I had to make do without what I assumed was commonplace everywhere, how might I adapt? Could we install remote starters for our vehicles for the winter time? Would purchasing a small shed in the backyard be a reasonable compromise for what is needed to take care of the lawn? Also to consider is the time saved in having to organize a garage in the first place and keep it clean on a regular basis, something I have failed to do up to now.

One of the best things about summer break is the opportunity to take stock in our professional journeys, as well as where we would like to go from here. Unless you work in a year round schooling situation, teachers and most principals fortunately get these mini-sabbaticals. We can take advantage of these times by using them as opportunities to rethink our roles as educators and professionals.

That is where I leave this post. What circumstances are we used to that might benefit from some rethinking? If we want to improve in a specific area of our practice, are we fully aware of how we currently view the situation? How might we do things differently?

Garage or no garage, we will be relocating to Mineral Point with an open mind.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is a 17-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary principal in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt is now an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

9 thoughts on “Do We Really Need a Garage? (and other things I am starting to rethink)”

  1. Is the image of a street in Mineral Point? It looks very European. A garage is just a place to make clutter. Consider that you will have less clutter. Lots of big cities have no garages. My daughters park on the street in New Orleans. Not ideal, but accepted.
    As a gifted teacher, I often get the left-over classroom which is sometimes a closet. We make do and sometimes don’t even miss the very thing we thought was necessary. Good luck with the move.

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    1. Thank you Margaret for the perspective. No, this is not a picture of Mineral Point. Found it on Unsplash and used it because of the lack of garages. 🙂

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  2. One “garage” that might need some rethinking is that mini-sabbatical mentioned that is provided for by the antiquated agrarian school schedule. Does adherence to this “garage” negatively affect our students/families in poverty? I remember some years ago working in summer school started me wondering about correlations between poverty and enrollment. The mere fact that some basic care and meals were provided served as a powerful incentive for attendance. Perhaps more school boards should look at how our schedules can best serve our communities.

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  3. Aside from your reflection, which I enjoyed…I had no idea you were moving! How exciting! As far as garages go…we currently have a 28 x 40 foot garage and are building a lean-to on each side, because we have run out of room in it for cars 🙂 The boat needs to go outside. Have a great end to your year!

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  4. “… our currently realities are not necessarily what everyone would consider as normal.”
    Amen. Different perspectives!

    I looked at Mineral Point. It is a really SMALL place! Is it possible for you to walk or bike to work? I often imagine the money that I would have if I did not have a car… no payment, but there is gas and insurance. I’ve heard it can be $15,000 a year. If you want to take a trip, you could certainly rent a car.

    There are alternatives to a garage. I’ve seen some “buildings” that are just poles with a roof. At the same time, I noticed you have a very nice summer climate, but your new city (?) gets pretty cold in the winter, so remote starters may be a great solution… if you keep the car.

    I am sooooo happy that you get to experience a school with a librarian! I think librarians are more necessary now than ever, as try to navigate our way through information overload. You will love it!
    Rhonda

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