Monday, March 24, 2008

The Great Divide

When did the Great Divide come into the teaching profession? I'm not referring to the divide between the administration and the teachers, that one has always been there. I'm referring to the divide between the young and the old teachers.

Young teachers, believe it or not, I was once young too. I also wanted to(actually I still do) save the world and thought I could do it one class at a time. But, I also knew that I was inexperienced and needed help.

Years ago, before the Great Divide, older teachers were valued. Their ideas and their skills were appreciated. Young teachers absorbed what they had to offer and in return, the older teachers got an energy charge from the young.

Things are different now. The young and the old teachers are totally separated. There is an "Us" and "Them" feeling in the school. The young ones are being put on pedestals and are being heralded as the type of teacher we all should be. Only their methods are good. Only their teaching methods can break the barrier preventing all from succeeding.

The older teachers are disgusted. We don't want to share with the young ones. We will all retire and take our skills, and our lesson plans with us.

I don't know how all this happened. I don't see any way to stop it from continuing. I only know what I see and what I see will hurt the education of future generations.


17 (really 15) more years said...

The young, new teachers in my school are, for the most part, so arrogant that none of us want to associate with them. They know it all- we know nothing. Administration kisses their asses at every turn, which adds to the friction.

I work in a small school with a small department (myself and one other teacher) in my subject area. In the 10 years I've been in my school, there have been 9 teachers in the other position (and I hardly work in a slum). The current newbie is the biggest suck-up walking. She bitches and complains about everything -including me- and how "mean" I am to her. I shared one lesson plan with her, she pawned it off as her own, and I learned my lesson (when I called her on it, she cried to the AP, who fell for it).

Anonymous said...

I'm a pretty new teacher....(this is year 3) and I'm happy to say that my best friends at school are the veteran teachers in my department. I do think they have a lot to offer and I have had some nice reciprocal interactions of lesson plans, etc. However, the english department at my school is full of the drama you are talking about and I think it's disgusting! All the older math teachers are retiring....I'm going to be the second or third in senority at the high school (out of a department of 12!!) next year and I'm not looking forward to it. Know that us newbies (well, some of us)appreciate what you share here....

Chaz said...

That's what the DOE wants. Young teachers who won't last enough to get a pension, or aquire good teaching skills.

lgm said...

It is possible that the divide is the result of the sheer numbers of baby boomers...very hard for those after the bb wave to find an opening unless someone died (or of course they were related). Well over 50% of the teachers at my district's schools are eligible to retire - all 30+ year vets. Board is looking for career changing men as replacements...

JUSTICE not "just us" said...

In my school it is really bad. My skunk of a principal acutally has "odered" the young teachers not to speak to "the fat cat teachers at maximum salary". Many follow orders like the Hitler Youth did. A few have rebelled and one, whose mother is retired teacher, actually reported him to the union. This is not only sad it is absurd. I thought we all needed to work like a team in order to meet the needs of the children. Dividing your staff is beyond the moronic. Can you imagine if the military did that!
Can you imagine what would happen in combat?

This policy also takes ugly racial and ethnic overtones since many of the Teach for America and Teaching Fellows are young whites from outside of New York City. I actually had to say no to an arrogant little punk who desperatly needed a translator on Open School Night to communicate with the parents since he has never bothered to say a word to me when he passes me in the halls. Who loses out here? We all do- the parents , the school, the children, the young teachers and the veteran teachers and all because of the out of control ego of a deranged principal who follows orders from those above him.

I read somewhere that the teaching corps in Nazi Germany were some of the most fanatical. I fear for my country!

Dr Pezz said...

I blame the elder teachers. :) Just kidding.

I'm pretty fortunate to be in a department where we all share the "open drawer, open file" policy where we share everything. It's all about the kids, right?

I have also noticed that at least 20% of the teachers in my school can retire in five years and half inside of ten years. What a gap in ages when 25% of th staff has fewer than 5 years experience.

Big gaps!

yo miss!, formerly in bushwick said...

I'm really sad to hear that this is the case. I've been so lucky to have worked with some fantastic veteran teachers in my 2 years in the NYC schools. But maybe it's because, although I'm a Fellow (and I know some of y'all have no love for the Fellows!), my university classes have almost all been taught by veteran or retired NYC teachers who were so fabulously smart and helpful that you couldn't help but respect them and want to emulate them.

One of the core values of the Fellows program is supposed to be humility. My university has, I think, explicitly endorsed this value through having us taught by seasoned classroom teachers (i.e. not education professors who haven't been in a real classroom in years, if ever). One of my favorite profs is a teaching AP at a large high school in Queens--great guy.

How, as a young teacher, could you not want to learn from people who have been doing the job for years? I'm all for trying new things, but not simply for the sake of newness. I could never in a million years pretend to know as much as someone who's been doing my job for 10, 20, 30 years.

Please know that at least one youngster in the system is really grateful for the help you provide to newer teachers.

Pissed Off said...

My school does have some great young teachers, probably like you, Ms. from Bushwick and I do offer help and advice. Unfortunately, the administration is setting them up like Goddesses and they are being trained to think they are perfect. Not all are like that, but enough are to cause the rift.

JUSTICE not "just us" said...

The same thing is happening in my neck of the woods! Coincidence? I think no!

X said...

I'm 28, this is my fifth year, and there's only one more experienced teacher in my department. We lost five awesome colleagues last year and they were replaced with two newbies. As a whole, my department shares resources pretty well, but I wish there were more years of experience to lean on!

ms. rubia said...

it's so interesting that you say this, because i am a first year math teacher in the bronx, and my (horrendous) AP actually pulled me aside and told me not to listen to two of the "veteran" (though to be honest, they only each had 5 years experience) teachers, as they were negative influences and that just because someone can be teaching 25 years (a not-so-veiled reference to the true veteran on our math staff) and never get to the level where they are effective.

She tried to isolate me from the other math teachers, telling me to only listen to her. she hated that i was very close with the rest of the math department, who helped me so much (she never did). she began to target me and the veteran teacher i was most close to. my union rep advised me to no longer talk to the veteran teacher (even though we were both teaching freshman algebra, and shared all our lesson plans).

eventually she U'd me (on my first observation ever, for not following the text book to the exact letter) and a month later I was excessed midyear. 3/4 of the teachers in the school signed a letter of protest over this, but it did no good...and i was better off, because:

i'm now in a much better school, just got my first S, and the AP thanks me all the time for coming to the school.

you are absolutely right that the higher ups try to drive a wedge between the old and new - but i think it's because they think us newbies are young and dumb and can be molded into little robots that will do exactly what they want...even when it is not educationally sound. the reason they try to downplay the importance that a veteran has is because they know that the veteran can see that all the BS they are currently hitting us with is just that...BS!