I had a professional development meeting today and one of the introductory comments made by the speaker was that she had 15 years of experience when she decided to change jobs. The meeting was not about this issue, but her follow-up remark brought back a lot of memories and fears. Her comment was that she knew changing jobs with that much experience means that if she didn't like her new job that she would not be able to return.
Those unfamiliar with the educational machine in the United States may find this surprising, but every teacher I ever met told me that if I wanted to leave IPS that I needed to do it before I had more than 5 years of experience. That is because 5 years is the unofficial time when you begin to build up more experience than a district is willing to pay.
This is not a mark against school districts. They are just working within the political-economical restraints put upon them. Districts only have so much money to spend and if they can higher a 22 year old for <$30,000 or a 15 year veteran for >$40,000 then they don't really have a choice. For the price of a 15 year veteran teacher, a district could invest in 1.5-2 new teachers. The experience itself is wanted, but not for the price tag.
It kind of makes me think about horse trading. Who wants an old horse? Or to use a more emotionally charged comparison: slave trading. See, a young slave has more energy and is less likely to speak up/out when told how to do their job. An older slave won't have as much energy and will come with more demands (ie $$).
Slaves....er...Teachers who have a lot of experience will cost districts more money and are more likely to say it like it is. The political machine that funds the districts is always finding ways to reduce their funding (all the while increasing expectations). Teachers are paid to run their script, not for the knowledge and experience they bring to the classroom more than that, the knowledge and experience they bring to other teachers.
(fyi, no one can simply teach...script or no script)
So what makes me the teacher I am today (and will become), in order, and which had the most positive impact on my abilities as a teacher:
- Help/knowledge/wisdom of veteran teachers
- Retired teachers (Thanks Roger :) )
- Content understanding (given both educationally and through experience)
- Fellowship with other teachers
- Fellowship with other new teachers
- Feedback from students
- Advisers/mentors (Thanks Lynn and Herb)
- Constructively critical administrators (thanks Bill & Jim)
- Educational background
- A decent lunch
- Petting my cat when I get home
- Other teachers
- Bad days (you can learn a lot when everything goes wrong)
- A good night's sleep
- A drink with fellow teachers
- Finding an extra dollar bill in my coat pocket so I can buy a pop for lunch
- Sleeping on the couch in the lounge (if you have a couch....or a lounge)
- Opening a can of tuna
- Controlling/Policy-minded administrators
- Watching anti-education documentaries
- Listening to political speeches about education
- Paying taxes
- Spending my own money on classroom supplies that will be reimbursed
- Spending my own money on basic classroom supplies that won't be reimbursed
- BS portfolio making
- Educational Standards (state, district or "common" core)
- District overlords/Political-bureaucratic stooges
- Thinking about my retirement plan