Sunday, December 13, 2009


Ms Eyre posted a story this week over at NYC Educator that rings so true that it is scary. There is no system in place to help new and struggling teachers, no matter what anyone says.

I always had a policy of never talking to an administrator, or at least talking to them only when absolutely necessary. Mentioning a problem was always quickly turned into a "gotcha" observation" or a demeaning conversation. It is only my old age that has gotten me to speak out loudly about some of the problems I run into and it is only since we have a new principal that I have found anyone actually ready and willing to try to help. (I haven't seen an solutions yet, but I'm going to be patient.)

Several years ago I had a low level algebra class that operated on a 7 -8 period a week split program and the kids were extremely difficult. The program was Suit's baby (he was in charge of the guidance department at the time) so I went to him for help. Suit promised to come talk to the kids but only showed up when I got on the phone and demanded help immediately. He tip toed into the room (he has an unusual way of walking), and began lecturing the kids on their behavior. He never once looked up at them or asked them anything. As he talked, they continued doing whatever it was they were doing before he walked in and were worse to him than they were to me. He didn't seem to notice as he finished his talk and left. Needless to say, I never asked for his help again. Mr. AP just turns every problem into my fault so I never go to him.

I truly believe our new administration would like to help the teachers and help the students but in many ways they are as clueless as we are as to what to do. Conferences dealing with this topic are always turned back to the teachers where we are supposed to brainstorm and come up with solutions. If we had these solutions we wouldn't be having the conference.

My friend Ted is a former math teacher and the APO of a small school in the city. A few years ago he hired an enthusiastic young teaching fellow. I took one look at this poor girl and knew the kids were going to chew her up and then spit her out. Luckily, Ted saw this too and made sure she had plenty of support and help and she made it through the system to become a tenured teacher. He asked tenured teachers to take some of her more challenging students and asked the math AP to be gentle with observations. Not many are fortunate enough to have supervisors like Ted.

Ms Eyre's post reminded me of the class Suit "helped" out in. I remember going to my AP and telling him to never give a class like that to a new teacher. It would destroy that teacher forever. Now he gives them to older teachers and holds us accountable for their preformance.

Bottom line is, Ms Eyre is correct. There is no system in place to help teachers. It is survival of the fittest and that is all anyone cares about.


Ms. Take said...

We only have one another in the end. The problem is, in a workplace where a toxic environment exists, many fall into feeling threatened; a state of mistrust then pervades the staff. The natural progression of passing tricks and new approaches to a new generation of teachers no longer exists; for me, there was always that spiritual facet of teaching, that passion to effectively communicate ideas and big pictures to kids. My more senior colleagues taught me a myriad of things not taught in ed school. These teachers were much more valuable for me as a developing and evolving teacher than any college experience. We each have to continue to do our part to fight the adversarial forces amongst ourselves.

Dorit Sasson said...

While there is no reliable system nationwide for mentoring new teachers, the key is finding a experienced mentor who is intuitive and heartfelt to younger and more inexperienced teachers. I've just interviewed several mentors and teachers like Gini Cunningham who know exactly what younger teachers are up against and offer fresh and invaluable insight for how they can avoid the burnout. There are many experienced teachers out there who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise even in districts with poor(er) working conditions. In fact, many teacher education programs are adapting new mentoring systerms as a course component to their curriculums.

Dorit Sasson
The New Teacher Resource Center
"Helping You Become a Confident and Successful Teacher"