Monday, April 05, 2010

Let's Not Fire The Senior Teachers

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Marcus Winters writes

Basing layoffs on seniority would make sense if it were true that more experienced teachers were always more effective. But a wide and uncontroversial body of research says that’s not the case. We know that after only a couple of years in the classroom, a teacher’s additional experience has no bearing on the amount her students learn.
(read the full story here but note that although he is a researcher, he makes no mention of any research that has been done to support his claim).

As an experienced, super senior teacher, I can tell him that is a 100% false statement. Teaching is a learning experience and we, as teachers, grow and perfect what we do every single minute we are in the classroom. It takes years to develop a classroom style, a style that fits both the teacher and the students and this takes more than a couple of years. Curriculum is another area that needs to be developed and improved daily. It is difficult to teach an advanced class if you have no experience teaching lower level ones, have no idea where kids are coming from and what they already have seen and been exposed to. It is also easier to teach lower level classes when you have already taught the upper echelon because you need to see the level you must strive to obtain. Talking to parents, and getting them to work with you is also a skill not easily developed in a couple of years. The same is true about learning to work with students.

Winters is right when he writes there are some bad teachers out there and being experienced doesn't cut it for them. But, a newbie principal, a thirty something year old individual who has taught for only a couple of years, or who never taught, or who is just plain evil should not be the only one permitted to destroy a career. This is happening all over the country right now. Good young teachers may be laid off. Last one in, first one let go is the way it has been in all industries for as long as I can remember.

I've been teaching for over 30 years and while I might not be the best teacher around, I know I am better than these kids just out of college. My years in the classroom give me a big advantage over them. I know because they often come to me for advice on anything from a math question, to handling a student to handling our AP. There might come a time I am no longer useful in the classroom and hopefully I will realize that and exit on my own terms. But, my termination should not be at the whim of one administrator.

Winters is a research fellow. A senior research fellow who conducts research and writes about educational policy should know better and not write such obvious generalities.


NYC Educator said...

Well, it's not the way it is in all industries, unfortunately. It tends to be the way it is in union shops, precisely the shops folks like the guy who wrote the article wishes to do away with. You may recall a few years back that Circuit City fired anyone who had enough experience to have achieved a high salary. This ensured that no one on staff knew the difference between a gigabyte and his elbow, and the company went out of business shortly thereafter.

This battle cry is neither unique or original. Klein made the same plea, and added to it the fact that he'd have to lay off more junior teachers, and that he could save two of them by laying off one senior teacher.

Unfortunately, their eight years have left such a toxic atmosphere that no lucid individual could trust Tweed to make ethical firing decisions. Last in first out is a clear criterion, which is more than they had in their decision to close 19 schools.

Anonymous said...

You are so right! I have been teaching for 15 years and am still learning. We are always learning and growing. I too am far from the best but my experience cannot be learned in a book.

Anonymous said...

"Marcus A. Winters, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, conducts research and writes about education policy."

Perhaps we should fire all the senior fellows at the Manhattan Institute.

"We know that after only a couple of years researching, a researcher’s additional experience has no bearing on the quality of their research."