Young teachers vs. older teachers

A generation gap separates young teachers, who are willing to trade tenure for higher pay, and older teachers, who want to stick to the old system, writes Paul Tough on Schoolhouse Rock.

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  1. If you offer teachers a starting salary of $100,000 and no tenure, it’s clear you expect them to move on in a few years. What school or system could sustain a teacher for 20 years on such a salary, with the accompanying raises and merit bonuses?

    The “new” plan favors the qualified, energetic, inexperienced teacher–lots of them, coming and going, year after year. Wisdom falls by the wayside.

    As much as we need new blood, we also need the teachers who have been around for a long time: who have learned how to weather the ups and downs of teaching; who have learned to see their subject from a thousand angles and are continually finding more; and who see through the fads to the essence.

    Of course we do not want stagnant, complacent schools. Nor do we want schools of endless novelty, because endless novelty can be the worst stagnation of all.

  2. Robert Wright says:

    I see a clear difference between the older and the newer teachers.

    The newer teachers are more energetic and open minded and they bring with them a refreshing, positive attitude.

    Our school would be a dreary place without them.

    I don’t know if our school is typical, but practically all of the new teachers we’re getting are exceptionally smart and talented.

    Are the older teachers better than the younger ones? Yes, but not by much.

    And to get a veteran teacher to try something new is about as easy as giving a cat a bath.

    Unfortunately, after a couple of years the bureaucracy will have erased the bright and shiny smiles I see now.

  3. It really depends on the teacher. Yeah, the newbies have enthusiasm & a willingness to make changes in their practice.

    On the down side, many struggle with class management, family issues, and really don’t know the curriculum fully. Sometimes, by working a killer schedule, they not only manage to stay afloat, they accomplish great things.

    That usually lasts a few years, at most. Too many of the super-teacher types flame out young.

    I’m at the other end of the career – 15+ years full-time, several part-time. I know how to incorporate the state standards, weave in language arts goals, handle unruly teens, manage lab equipment without losing it to theft or breakage, and keep on top of the paperwork.

    Of course, I’m dead beat by the weekend. I have no social life. And I cost a lot – but I’m worth it.

    Good schools have a mix. You need the shiny-eyed newbies, full of pi$$ & vinegar, who will have the physical stamina to finish the day, go to a faculty meeting, and still manage to handle the concession stand at the game.

    And be ready, bouncy, and eager for more the next day.

    Of course, sometimes the class management suffers, they cry on the shoulder of the teacher next door at the end of a frustrating day, and, of course, some leave in June, and never return.

    Vets will be there, year after year. They don’t get thrown by the discipline problems, don’t generally commit an act that leaves the school in legal trouble, know the paper that needs to hit which desk and when, and manage to end the year with all standards reached. They mentor the new kids, keep the clubs and activities going, organize the field trips, assemblies and graduations. Some of them could run the school – but don’t want to. They teach because they want to – it’s their chosen profession.

    Some, like my husband and I, still spend much of every summer in professional development activities – we DO work on learning the new stuff. You might be surprised to see all the “grey heads” in the summer workshops.

    Old or young, the only teachers I’m in favor of persuading to leave are the ones that are filling time. Fortunately, there are not that many.

  4. Don’t new teachers eventually become older teachers?

    I know I have less energy than I did 10 years ago. It doesn’t mean I’m “deadwood,” but it does mean I’m more likely to think twice about volunteering for some largely-thankless task because it will “look good on my Development Plan.” Or I will think twice about killing myself with high levels of research.

    Fortunately I HAVE tenure so I don’t have to keep up that hard-drivin’ first-year pace. (Funny, I’m not any less BUSY.)