Will someone please answer some questions for me?
First, how is it good for our children, our country and our future to permit schools to be filled with a majority of young, new, inexperienced educators, as touted by one administrator to a recent meeting of parents? There is a systematic, organized and sanctioned effort in financially challenged school districts to purge experienced educators over the age of 50.
At that age, many teachers have earned at least one master's degree and are at the top of the pay scale. These are also the educators who opt to keep the best, more expensive insurance coverage because they can afford it. In short, older, mature, experienced teachers cost too much. Therefore, age discrimination and hostile work environments reign supreme in many schools.
Under the guise of helping teachers improve their teaching skills, principals are now popping into classrooms to “snapshot” teachers while they work. This is all well and good if it is, indeed, focused on improvements and if all teachers are evaluated equally. The facts and practices in some schools do not support the “equal and improve” rhetoric. Older teachers receive multiple snapshots weekly — sometimes twice daily — while many younger teachers are rarely, if ever, evaluated.
The feedback, which is documented and placed in personnel files, is generally subjective and negative. For example, in a classroom where students are at various stages of completion on a long-term, standards-based project, it is not uncommon to see small groups of students collaborating, individual students reading or writing and the teacher engaged in small-group instruction reviewing a skill or concept not yet mastered by some students. The documentation of the snapshot by the principal reflects that less than half of the class was engaged in the lesson; several students were off-task reading books or writing, implying that those students were not paying attention to the lesson, and that some students were disruptive during the instruction.
Negative, non-supportive comments prevail in this commentary of a classroom observation. The interpretation of the classroom observation of this class was clearly not an accurate account of what was actually taking place. What was thought to be whole-group instruction was actually students working at their own pace, using their own methods, striving to meet a predetermined goal and deadline. The teacher was acting as not only the facilitator of instruction but also the guide for the independent workers.
It is clear that the assessor did not have the knowledge or background to make an accurate evaluation of that teacher. There was no response from the evaluator to a detailed written explanation about the dynamics of the classroom during the observation. The subjective and negative evaluation remained unchanged. At the same time in the same school building, there were younger teachers who rarely, if ever, received snapshots even though this practice is touted as being mandatory.
Second question: If negative, biased, discriminatory and harassing evaluations force experienced teachers into early retirement, physician-approved medical leaves or wrongful termination, who is going to mentor young educators? Who will share lesson plans, resources, guidance and support that are so important and necessary for young educators?
While it is true that young teachers bring a wealth of new ideas and innovations to the table that can benefit seasoned veterans and students, the first year is the toughest year of teaching. The very administrators who value a diverse student population seem to be also those who dismiss a diverse faculty. Faculty diversity is good for kids. There will be an unprecedented number of educators retiring and leaving the profession this year due to the adverse and hostile working environments created by subjective practices that are endorsed by school districts.
Do you know the teachers who are teaching your children? Do you support them with positive letters and comments to them and their administrators? Do you only comment about your teachers when there is a disagreement? Excellent, seasoned, veteran and wise educators are being kicked to the curb not primarily for substandard performance but for financial purposes. Financially, it is less expensive to replace an older teacher with a younger teacher.
There is no replacement for experience in any profession. Experience knows what works and what doesn't work in a classroom not only academically but also managerially. Experience offers wisdom, insight and guidance that have been hard earned by veteran teachers. Public education is under-funded; our children, our nation and our future are the victims. Professional educators “of a certain age” are also the victims. There is a quote that states, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
Teachers are not the problem with the educational system. Losing experience is like walking blindly down a dark alley. Please take a moment from your busy schedule, whether you have school-age children now or have had them in the past or hope to have them in the future, and write to the building and district administrators in support of all teachers who have cared for, taught and nurtured these children.
Mention them by name; mention the examples of their work that was so critical to your child's development; mention their insight, wisdom and compassion for your child. Acknowledge that veteran teachers are important for many essential reasons for your child's growth and to please stop the wholesale discrimination that is rampant in our under-funded school districts today.