Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Am I So Past My Prime?

By on February 21, 2009

Somehow, and maybe I’m reading into it here, I feel a little written off already.  Education Week is reporting that some districts are pondering the possibility of “front-loading” new teacher salaries, increasing their compensation earlier in their career to aid in recruiting “higher-calibur talent.”  But, um, what about me?

I’m a little frustrated at the message this sends to those of use who have invested in this career.  I mean, I know that we need to recruit new teachers, but a talented person with great ability in their field does not necessarily a good teacher make. Remember, teaching is about two skills that must be mastered: that of content and that of communication.

An untried teacher is an unknown factor.  Until they are given a classroom and time to hone their craft, a new teacher should not be given more compensation for just showing up.  There are, however, things they should be given.  They should be given more support, fewer adjunct duties, less challenging classrooms, even an extra prep, but the money needs to be used as a carrot.

The message should be: stick with it, become a master, a leader in this field, and then you’ll be paid back in something more than a #1 Teacher mug.  

I also believe that in focusing funds on new teachers and not on rewarding veterans who have proven themselves in the field, those districts are condemning those veteran teachers to past practice hell. That is, “They’ve done for this long.  They can continue right on doing it this way while we focus on new hires.”

Look, I believe that teaching should be higher paid for everyone under any circumstance, but if funds are tight and choices are to be made, I believe that those who have proved themselves already deserve the dripping faucet of funds that may, one day, come our way.

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Comments

  1. David Cohen
    February 21, 2009

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    You make a good point about the qualities of an effective teacher. Pam Grossman of Stanford did a presentation at Asilomar last fall where she reported on research that shows math teachers outperform top-notch academic mathematicians when it comes to diagnosing an error. They showed incorrectly solved math problems to both groups, and asked what mistake the student made, what were they thinking. Math teachers were able to figure it out more successfully.

    I don’t know of any similar research for English teachers, but I don’t suppose it would be hard to do. We should be more effective than non-teaching writers when it comes to explaining student errors in writing, anticipating their struggles, and knowing instructional strategies that will help. Many non-teachers imagine that we can teach anything we can understand by simply explaining it: “Just tell the students to stop using passive voice. Just explain how an outline works. If you do a good job of telling them stuff, they should all get it.”

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