NYC Teacher Jamie G writes:
It's no secret that retention is a big issue at high-performing charter schools. So, while I'm pretty sure most people who graduate medical school go on to be doctors for a long time (though I could be wrong), I'm still not convinced that I will be a teacher in 20 years, let alone 10, 5, or even 2 years from now.
While I've been told time and again that the teacher workload becomes more manageable as the years go by, I still see very, very few people whoe are both: (1) the teacher I want to eventually be (Dupuis/Thompson/Collins/Little) (MG note - these are teachers at MATCH, where Jamie trained), and (2) living the lifestyle I would prefer to eventually have (50-55 hour workweek and raising a family).
Would changing the structure of the first few years of teaching - long hours for much-needed experience in combination with heavy supervision/mentorship/guidance from more experienced and more able master teachers - create an environment where this is possible?
As a teacher, just like being a doctor, I am almost certainly far more valuable in years 5-10 (and beyond) of the profession than I am in years 1-4. What role could ed schools play in this?
I think the seeming dichotomy between being a great teacher and having a "normal" life is the elephant in the room as far as training quality teachers (those who will have the biggest positive impact on student learning) is concerned.
Jamie, here's what's happening.
1. A few districts (like Tampa, Pittsburgh) and some LA charter schools got a huge Gates Foundation grant. The idea is to create a career ladder that does value more senior teachers, and does create some division of labor.
2. An organization called Teach Plus is thinking about this, too. Check them out.
3. I think what Higher Ed has not done, but could do, is to create teacher-friendly research. Very little of the research produced is designed for consumption by individual teachers.
For example, there is no research I know of which would help you figure out where you might become more efficient while holding student learning constant (or holding your effort constant while raising student learning).
Research that does exist about teaching practices tends to ignore teacher time. I.e., "We found Method X works." But Method X may take 4 more hours a week of teacher time, whether as a "one-time cost" (let's say for the year where you start this new method) or even permanently.
Our Ed School hopes to begin doing some of that work that acknowledges teacher time as limited, even this year, with these guys.