Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Inundation of Inexperience

The Inundation of Inexperience
By Jill Jenkins

            Historically schools like older corporations had a  hierarchy of teachers who had worked 20 to 30 years in the industry and young, novice teachers were added a few at a time.  The more experienced staff mentored the new teachers.  Advanced courses and older grades were taught by the more experienced staff and younger staff members worked their way up the ladder to succeed them as they retired.  The less experienced members of a staff learned from the more experienced staff members and treated their experience with respect, but today the majority of faculty members are first and second year teachers and some have no respect for the experienced staff and no patience to work their way up the ladder. This is especially true when there is an extraordinary number of inexperienced teachers.

            Does this create a problem? According to the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching:
“The high number of inexperienced teachers in public school classrooms is a largely unrecognized problem that undermines school stability, slows educational reform, and, new research suggests, hurts student achievement. These are among the findings of a report released today by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.”
Teachers do not enter the profession with all of the skills that are needed to be successful.  Many academic programs are designed to prepare students to teach their subject to like-minded college students, but middle schools and high schools are filled with students who lack any motivation or desire to analyze great pieces of literature or compose a thought-provoking essay.  In fact, some won’t even write their name on their paper, let alone turn it in.  Developing ways to motivate these students to tackle the rigor of the Common Core Curriculum requires the age and wisdom of teachers who have experience.  This is way mentoring programs are so essential.  Even in the field of medicine, doctors complete their internship and a residency before they practice medicine independently.  Even then, many medical doctors still work within a team of doctors.  It seems unthinkable that many of these new graduates believe that they can step out of a four-year college program, enter the teaching field and take over a department.    

            Ironically, many schools are choosing to replace older teachers with new college graduates, because administrators feel that only the newly graduated teachers are familiar with the new teaching ideas.  Many of these teachers arrive believing that their new ideas are the only sensible ideas and try to foist their ideas on the department.  They are surprised when more experienced teachers resent their attitudes. They are also surprised by their students lack of proper behavior in the classroom and their lack of productivity. Some even become involved in inappropriate relationships with students. This could be avoided if the teachers are provided proper supervision and direction by a more experienced teacher. 
        Furthermore, many of these new teachers do not stay at a school for longer than one to two years.  According to Forbes,” teacher attrition has grown by 50% over the past fifteen years.  The national teacher turnover rate has risen 16.8 percent.  In urban schools it is over 20 percent, and in some schools and districts, the teacher dropout rate is actually higher than the student dropout rate” (Forbes). Who is leaving the teaching profession?  According to National Education Association, thirty percent left because of retirement, but 56% left because of job dissatisfaction or a desire for a new career.”  Teaching is a stressful job.  Giving new teachers the support of experienced teachers for several years before they a put in the more demanding subjects with the more demanding parents could eliminate some of this stress.  School administrator, also, need to address a new teacher who is not teaching the curriculum or not maintaining good classroom control.  If it is support the teacher needs, the principal should help the teacher get it.  If it is arrogance, the principal should address that appropriately. 

             Why are districts doing this? Could districts motives include trying to save money on salaries?  Inexperienced teachers earn are significantly less than experienced teachers and if they leave the profession before they retire the state and district saves money again.  Are schools attempting to save money while forgetting the most important task, providing a quality education?  Many schools and districts have forced older teachers into retirement by changing their retirement packages and eliminating access to health insurance.  Yes, this saves money for the district, but is it fair to the teachers who entered into a contract with the district 25 or 30 years ago only to find that if they don’t retire now they will lose a portion of their benefits or all of them? 
            Regardless of the reason, the result is the same:  placing too many first and second year teachers in one school or one department reduced the chances that the students will receive a quality education.  Schools need a balance of older, more experienced teacher in each school and a few inexperienced teachers learning how to become good teachers if we expect to pass on the torch of high quality education.