Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Career Sampling: Dave Saba comment

By on April 4, 2008

So, I commented on Dave Saba’s American Board site but I wasn’t sure if it posted so I thought I’d post it here.  In response to his article about the number of different jobs the average 18-40 will hold in a lifetime and how it will impact education, I said the following:    

“Well, the MTV generation has all grown up.  Actually, you might even hear people blame the variety-style Sesame Street for 20s and 30s-somethings’ fickle ambition.  But I think it also has to do with a very healthy dose of entitlement.  If this new wave of teachers comes into the profession with the attitude of “you’ll get my good work for a fair price”, it can only bode well for those who are more hunkered down for the long-run in teaching.  Too many people are intimidated by change in this profession and have lost their fight.  This new generation embraces change and the glory of rolling its dice.  If we can entice them to remain in teaching long enough with the incentives of higher-pay, I say, let these “career samplers” roll in and leave a wake of reform in the process.”

And Saba believes, as many do, that this issue will get worse.     I guess my feeling is this: perhaps we should embrace it.  

You want to hire a teacher with ambition, a teacher who is antsy with mediocrity.  Of course, we don’t want an entire troupe of temporaries; we want dedication.  But we also want role models of excellence and enthusiasm standing in front of the white boards of America. 

If it weren’t for the fact that I have found ways to weave in my interests despite the system, I would get bored year after year.  As it stands, the system is set up for being mired in the doldrums.  So many textbooks same the same thing, so many teachers use the same strategies, so many teachers pull the same worksheets out of the same file cabinet for the same day of the year. 

There must be a way to morph dedication with not-settling-for-static teaching.  We need to try to harness this ADD-esque generation and empower them to use their darting eyes to seek out ways to reform our system so that its topography is textured with strategies.  By doing this, perhaps education, and even those 30-year veterans, would benefit by example, even if those setting the example move on after creating their footprint.

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  1. Nancy Flanagan
    April 10, 2008

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    Thoughtful post. Of course, Dave Saba is in the business of creating instant teachers, so he’s stuck on the statistics of job churn. We DO want excellent teachers in every classroom, and we also know (from considerable research) that no matter what kind of training they get (or don’t get), it takes a couple of years, at least, for a teacher to get up to speed as an effective practitioner. So why would we be thinking that it’s a good thing for them to leave the classroom, just when they’ve figured out how to teach well?

    I also agree that we can no longer promote the 30-year model of career teaching. But maybe the solution comes from an evolving understanding of what “teacher” means. Maybe we need an array of hybrid roles where teachers remain in contact with the classroom and also use their expertise in writing curriculum, creating collegial professional development, being part-time administrators, serving on time-limited “leaves” to mentor, advise policy-makers, and on and on. We don’t expect an attorney to practice in the same way for 30 years, and we should expect teachers (as instructional specialists) to practice in the same way, with the same level of influence and autonomy, for decades.

    Have enjoyed nosing around your site–lots of smart stuff here. As a long-time MS teacher myself, I laughed out loud at your description of new teachers as the ADD-esque generation with darting eyes. The kids we taught are returning!

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