Thursday, February 24, 2011

If Teaching Is Their Calling They Will Weather The Storm

Back in the '70's when I began my teaching career there were massive teacher layoffs.  No one called for the end of seniority to save the newbies.  No one said the new teachers were better than the old ones because, quite frankly, we weren't.

I was one of the lucky ones.  I would get laid off on Monday only to find I had my job back by Tuesday.  My school was not a very good one and we had lots of Title I money that kept remedial programs going.  Math teachers, even in schools without these funds fared better and many spent the first years of their careers moving from school to school before earning enough years to guarantee them a job in the same place.  Teachers in other subjects were not so fortunate.  Many ended up changing careers.  The ones I know ended up going into fields that were much more lucrative and did much better financially than they would have done had they stayed in teaching.  Others weathered the bad years and returned to education when things got better.

I became a teacher the traditional way, majored in math and minored in education.  I followed the full route, taking the meaningless education courses and the meaningful methods and student teaching classes.  But, the most important things I learned about teaching were the things I learned from the experienced teachers in my school.  They were the ones who taught me how to deal with students I never knew existed, the ones with the guns and the criminal records.  They taught me the most efficient way to write an exam. They shared lessons.  They helped me cope with a devil supervisor.  In other words, they gave me the survivor skills every teacher needs.  And now, there is a call to end "LIFO", to get rid of these experienced teachers so the newbies can keep their jobs.  The claim, of course will be that these experienced teachers are not effective but who's to say if they are or not?  Some vindictive principal with an axe to grind?   Some administrator who wants to save some money?  A person in power who wants to free up a teaching spot for his niece?

Any young person who truly wants to remain a teacher will do so.  They might be out of the classroom for a year or so, but if the desire is will, there will be nothing to keep them from returning to a school when things get better.  Ending "LIFO" is not only bad for the long term teachers, it's bad for children as well.  Without experience, who will be around to teach the teachers what they need to know?


Anonymous said...

I've only been a teacher for 12 years. i would not have lasted if it weren't for the senior teachers who guided me through EVERY aspect of teaching. I asked questions about the best practices in attendance, exams and lessons. Every question I asked of my AP was laughed at and not addressed. I still welcome the advice of all the experienced teachers I work with. THANK GOD FOR THEM! I only hope that one day I can be the experienced teacher and be welcomed by a newbie!

Pissedoffteacher said...

It's interesting that you wrote you were only teaching for 12 years. In my school, all the young teachers have student teachers and they are the ones my AP goes to when he has a question about anything. They "know" the most because they have 3 years experience.

I'm sure with 12 years under your belt you are more than qualified to give advice. You are definitely an experienced teacher.

Anonymous said...

I think something does need to be said for teaching in that third or 4 year. I spent 2 years taking over leave replacements. What I know now, as opposed to then was nothing. I was trying to keep the students sitting quietly for obscene amounts of time, making sure to keep them quiet so no one can hear a peep, amongst other things.

When I became appointed, it was my first year in a new grade and planning a new curriculum. However, it was not my first year dealing with behaviors and fresh mouthed students. (They were fresh mouthed in my leave replacements since I taught in District 75 and in special education classes).

I know another new teacher who taught pre-k special ed for 2 years and is now teaching a special education class a new hire on LI. She is new to a curriculum but not new to behaviors. There is something to be said to the 'third or fourth year'.

I am also not saying a third or fourth year can take the place of a teacher of 20-30 years. I just think the third and fourth year in a classroom is the 'AHA'.

Nicole said...

Thank you for writing this piece. I was a long term substitute social studies teacher for the entire 2008-2009 school year. I will be forever grateful for the guidance I received from two kind veteran social studies teachers across the hall that year. Since then, I have been substitute teaching and tutoring. I'm trying my best to "weather the storm" until a time arrives when there are more positions for "newbie" teachers like me. The passion I have already developed for teaching is what keeps me going.

Educational Encounters said...

Nicole, I had a similar experience. Social studies is hard to get into because of the enormous number of people. I had to move across the country to get my first job after wallowing for years as an underemployed para. Weathering the storm is very tough, it almost drove me away.