American education is faced with an interesting paradox at the moment: wanting innovative, collaboration-based teaching/learning going on in the classroom, while at the same time trying to acquire said practices with antiquated rules, regulations, and procedures. In essence, the system that is in place right now is broken.
School districts, and even state-level educational administrators are faced with a very difficult decision: Should the state hold on to the older, more seasoned teachers simply because they were there first, or should the state begin to consider a more revolutionary tactic? While teachers who hold more seniority are indeed more educated, more practiced, and know their content areas well, there is also the potential for a higher level of complacency and a lower chance of newer, innovative teaching styles. This is not to say that every seasoned teacher cannot be an innovator, just that the median generally creates the rule.
With the onslaught of new educational legislation, it seems that every teacher’s job is potentially in jeopardy. Not only those who are new to the profession (myself included), but those who have gone ten rounds with the bureaucracy that is the district/state/federal government. This article got me thinking about it this evening: http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/02/23/rhee.layoff.policy/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_education+%28RSS%3A+Education%29
There are a few things I need to preface before giving my own opinion of this particular article. First, I have to say that I am not vehemently pro-union. In fact, I would say I am closer to riding the line between not caring and anti-union. That is not a popular place to be when you are a teacher. Part of the reason I feel this way is that I can see the merits of the ideals of merit-based pay and employment based on what is earned.
Second, I truly believe that what will change the educational gap that our country experiences is innovation and reaching students where they are. This cannot happen using tactics that have always been in use. Students today come to school from a different place than any generation ever has. They have technology right at their fingertips at all times, information is much easier to come by. They don’t have to work for it the way we did as students. Because of this, they also question what they are learning and why more often than any other generation ever has.
In the article above, Michelle Rhee, founder of StudentsFirst.org, outlines that districts are facing some of the largest layoffs they have faced in recent history and that the status quo of retaining seasoned teachers may not be every district’s best course of action. She outlines why it might be smarter for districts to hold on to those teachers who may have a new perspective and are passionately bringing new eyes to the same subject.
Now, you might call me biased, being that I am a first-year teacher. But I also hope that I will always have the same passion for what I am doing ten years from now as I do today. Maybe that is naivete on my part. Maybe I am overly-optimistic. Only time will tell, I guess.