Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Today in NOTL:  Another mild day, with noon temps of 77F/25C, a light breeze outside, and sunny skies. Beautiful!

It's nearly Labour Day.  School is already in session in many areas, and soon to begin here.  I loved teaching, though I dreaded the first day of school as much as any student.  Once I got past the first days of meetings and paperwork, though, I was in my element.

The worst days of school were ALWAYS the days of teacher meetings, when the administrators talked endlessly about the new trends they wanted us to incorporate into our teaching.  Bleech.  Most of the administrators in our community had only a few years of classroom experience; one honest principal, discussing his evaluation of my teaching, shrugged and said, "Let's face it: I can't tell you how to be a better teacher. I only taught three years before I became an assistant principal."  He was still a rookie teacher when he was placed in charge!

I remembered that when I was watching The Talk last week.  One of the guests was a woman who was violently opposed to the practice of 'last hired, first fired' when it came to teacher layoffs.  "Why get rid of the most enthusiastic and energetic teachers?" she asked, and that does sound reasonable - until you think about the ramifications.

New teachers are undeniably younger than veterans and probably more energetic and enthusiastic.  Do these make them better teachers though?

Let's move the discussion from the classroom to the hospital.  New doctors are certainly younger and probably more enthusiastic and energetic than doctors with 10 or 20 years experience.  Does that make them better doctors?  Would you want a rookie surgeon operating on you?

As a veteran teacher, I didn't have the starry-eyed enthusiasm I had as a rookie.  Instead, I had the competence and satisfaction of many years of successful teaching.  I was enthusiasm, but I used it differently.

When I was a young teacher, I was more rah-rah in my approach and tried to get the students on board through the power of my own excitement and delight.  Over the years, though, I learned how to generate THEIR enthusiasm not by being rah-rah myself, but by using discussion and activities and the sort of tricks and techniques good teachers learn - by experience and experimentation.

When I was a young teacher, the students' apathy and resistance had me gritting my teeth and promising myself a good cry when I got home.  As an experienced teacher, I used their own apathy and resistance to break through to hope and willingness. 

As an experienced teacher mentoring newbies, I know that 'last hired, first fired' is in the best interests of the students.  Are their apathetic older teachers counting time to retirement?  Certainly, but they are far fewer in number than the Talk's guest would like to indicate.  Youth vs. experience?  I'll take experience every time.  

But school administrators and 'experts' are pushing this idea: "Let's keep the young, enthusiastic teachers and get rid of those fuddy-duddy old teachers who are locked into outdated teaching practices.'   Administrators and education 'experts' certainly know the value of an experienced teacher, so why are they promoting this idea? 

It's not about merit, though they may push that idea.  It's not about excellence, either, or the welfare of the students. 

It's about money.  Although teacher salaries lag behind that of comparable professions, new teachers begin at the bottom of the pay scale.  It's cheaper to employ a force of inexperienced teachers than to attract and retain a force of teachers with years of hard-won classroom expertise. 

Like everyone else, schools are hurting for money.  Where can they economize? The easiest way is to reduce the payroll - fewer teachers and fewer veterans.  And who will suffer?  The children, as always. 

I was very disappointed to see this process promoted on The Talk.  I hope people won't be fooled. 

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