Friday Reading

Here’s a thoughtful piece from a Georgia teacher engaging with some of the things on this blog and some of Mike Goldstein’s guestblogging. Read it yourself but here is one point worth teasing out here. The author, “Jim V” writes:

I’m about to launch year 18. I think I have learned and improved over time, with many lessons learned the hard way (I am not the teacher my favorite education professor warned us not to be, the teacher who has not had twenty years of experience but one year of experience twenty times). I have increased my ability to do many things that count in the classroom, but I have lost in some other areas, particularly my willingness to devote more than 50 hours a week to my students’ academic success. Most veterans are like that. If we are entering an era where the most valuable asset a teacher has to offer is not experience, but rather a willingness to work killer hours, then teachers will actually become less valuable later in their careers, when their capacity for long hours diminishes. How long before the powers that be get wise, recognize me as the ass-dragging fossil that I am, and cut my salary?

That’s a very legitimate and smart point. But, I think it speaks to the problem of how we organize schools and treat the teaching profession. It’s not this trajectory, which is frankly natural, that is the problem. It’s that more experienced, proven, and effective teachers have few opportunities to share that knowledge with their younger peers, take on leadership and management roles that don’t require completely leaving the classroom, or in other words leverage their expertise and experience to help overall productivity and mission. Sure, that’s a school problem but it’s also a policy problem to the extent that policymakers refuse to think creatively about fundamentally offering teachers a new deal. There is some good stuff starting to happen here in a few places but in most a debilitating combination of “steps and lanes” and uncreative management still run the day and create the concern that Jim V. gives voice to.

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