Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Metlife Survey Analysis and The New Evolution in Education: Hybrid Teachers

By on March 26, 2010

Lately I’ve been intrigued by recent studies on this topic of “hybrid teaching.” So when the most recent portion of The Metlife Survey of the American Teacher was released, I was eager to read its findings about “hybrid approaches to teaching roles.”

The definition of hybrid teaching varies, and I guess that’s the point. It defines a flexible career which allows teachers to explore different percentages of their job in the classroom and in other forms of education. For instance, a teacher can be paid to be in the classroom in the morning, but be a mentor teacher or district liaison in the afternoon. A teacher can, therefore, keep one foot in the classroom with the clientèle that are our students and also be paid to work outside the classroom to make the structure of school run at a higher quality.

I’ve heard any number of part-time education positions bantered about: curriculum coach, department head, grade level chair, technology coordinator, author, field researcher, publicist, teacher mentor, master teacher, literacy coach, district liaison, teacher trainer, professional development coach, distance learning educator, online tutor…the list goes on. It’s as infinite as the needs are of the individual district and school site.

The point is, that rather than get a meager stipend to do work in addition to being a full-time classroom teacher (which puts a strain on the quality of workmanship in both areas), a school can create a salaried “Frankenjob” of sorts for a teacher that addresses the needs of the school or district.

You need to train new teachers? Don’t hire an outside resource. Ms. So-and-so is already presenting at conferences on some weekends and has experience in teaching teachers. Let’s put her part-time in the classroom and part-time developing applicable professional development for teachers. Or let’s have her working as a mentor teacher with the newbies at the district. She can observe, guide, help them reflect and better their practice. Working one-on-one over a period of time, she might even have some influence on the teacher evaluation process rather than just leave it to the once-a-year-principal-pop-in observation. (Note to self: while I’ve briefly written on the topic here, a revamped teacher evaluation process is for a different post.)

And when you consider that according to the survey more than 56% percent of teachers agree that there are second career teachers in the classroom, don’t we have to allow for the fact that these people have skills that must be allowed further outlet in education?

But wait, let’s go back. Put aside the second career teachers. What about all teachers? Haven’t we all had skills put on the back burner of usage due to the rigid structure of our current educational paths? Don’t we all have talents we wish could be fully utilized?

I mean, one of the things that I love so much about teaching is the fact that it allows me to use some many of my passions: talking, reading,writing, drawing, etc…But after a few years of teaching, I soon found that I really longed for other outlets for my other interests.

For instance, I like talking to adults, and I long for it sometimes. I enjoy mentoring teachers, passing on what I’ve learned and helping them with their own practice. And, in so doing, I improve my own. For based on my own experience, I’ve noticed how recharged my own batteries get after touching education outside of the classroom in some way. And, as a consequence, I return to my students stronger.

In fact, I beg to differ with the study’s worry that hybrid teaching might lead to burnout. I, for one, see myself as leaving the classroom if I don’t one day find a hybrid role to fulfill me, to keep me stimulated. According to the study, I might fall under their 42% of teachers who want combination roles in education who are “less than very satisfied teachers.” But it’s not that teaching in the classroom isn’t satisfying or fulfilling. It’s just that I’m like my students. Sometimes I need to mix it up to be at my best.

I also have to take issue with this fact that there are “less than very satisfied teachers” and “very satisfied teachers.” What teacher who is reflective, growing in his or her own practice, challenging themselves and their students, working towards bridging that achievement gap and teaching toward the students’ futures is very satisfied right now? In fact, in my experience, the teachers who are totally happy with the way things are are not the ones we should be applauding as success stories. Sure there are the 30-year teachers out there who love teaching with their heart and soul. And I am in awe of them. But even they don’t seem so satisfied these days. So I question the variables used to determine this ambiguous state of mind and the fact that they implicate dissatisfied teachers as somehow wanting out.

In fact, I think that the mere fact that a “less than very satisfied teacher” is still looking for ways to remain in education in a positive way despite their frustrations says a lot about their dedication to the profession. The structure of ed needs to work with us to retain the best in each of us.

There are needs in education that aren’t being filled by those outside of education. We’ve all been to professional development that is empty and meaningless. We’ve all had teachers and trainers, many in our own teacher prep programs, who have distanced themselves from the classroom so much so that their teachings have become antiquated and lite in their message. (You can read about teacher prep program staffing in my Part 2 post on the topic here.)

But there must be an evolution in our profession. The Metlife Survey claims that a percent of teachers are happy with their job. But how long will that last when schools become more and more like prisons for both student and teacher alike? How long will that satisfaction last when we are all expected to be lock-step in our progression through our lessons, our units, and our careers? What will happen if we aren’t proactive and aggressive in styling our profession on the abilities and strengths of those within the profession?

What will happen if we don’t differentiate our professional paths?

If teaching is about the best and the brightest, it must provide an outlet for that which makes a person unique in their abilities. After all, only the best and the brightest can help produce the same.

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