Oct 24, 2011

count me in for year five

Hello world,

Here's another apology note to the edublogosphere. I'm still around, and I'm still learning from you. I'm still thankful for you. This year, I teach a new prep (advanced algebra), and it seems the best way I know how to plan for a new class is to listen to the ideas of my community. You, my friends, are my community. Without you, I'd be half the teacher I am today.

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During a teacher happy hour the other week, a face I seldom see at teacher gatherings showed herself. We conversed. She's in her late 20's, originally of the TFA variety. And still here. So, I asked, are you a "life-er?" "A what?" "A life-er, you know, are you in this gig for the long haul... maybe for life?"

She looked at me, smiled, and said "good question, but I did say coming in that I'd commit 10 years to this high school, I'm in 7 deep now, and there's no way I'd be leaving when I'm this close."

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And then I consider - what if all new teachers who've arrived on this campus stuck around for as long as she did. What if programs like TFA that wear "close the achievement gap" on their sleeve put down a more stringent regulation on their contracts and asked for TEN, rather than TWO.

What if the teachers our freshmen see today are guaranteed to high five them as they walk across the graduation stage?

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I'm not raggin' on my teacher friend's who've taken a departure from this game; you know I love you. And, you know we'll always connect at a different level because of our time in the classroom.

But, for myself, I'm now on this new edge where I'm wondering how my contributions to my students, my high school, my colleagues, my community grow with each year of experience.

And now, I look over that other edge...

Count Me in For Year Ten?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

You make a really good point about longevity. This is my 6th year in the classroom and I feel as though I have a deep and meaningful connection to the community in which I work. Families know me and now I'm teaching younger siblings. I am not TFA, but I did complete an intern credential so I know about being thrown into the thick of things.

There have been a few articles recently discussing the effect of mentor relationships that don't last vs the effect of relationships that last 5 years plus. Of course the longer relationships have a more positive impact on kids lives.

One of my biggest gripes with TFA is that I've seen over and over again, young people using TFA as a stepping stone because there is no way they would choose to become a teacher for the rest of their careers. If they go into this career already looking down on it, then why bother. They are using students and schools for personal and political gain essentially. It is very disappointing. I think it would be great for TFA to up the ante. I think even just adding a year to the term that way teachers complete the BTSA process and earn a clear credential would be great.

Dave Orphal said...

You make a GREAT point about schools and students craving the stability that having seeing their teachers over the course of their four years provides.

While I do often criticize TFA for not preparing their teacher-recruits well enough, I have to give them this: their burnout rate is not much worse than a traditional credential program. Both see 2/3's of their recruits leave the classroom by year five.

While there are lots of ideas and programs focused on recruiting and placing new teachers - we don't do enough to plug the drain.

Why do so many new teachers leave? I've got some ideas about this that I write about on my old blog (Learning 2030). There is also a great book _Why Great Teachers Quit_ that offers many of the same conclusions.

I think that this is going to be the big reform push of the next five years.

Eyawn said...

@Anon - I feel the same way about building meaningful relationships. It's a pleasure having younger siblings who's families you're already familiar with. I've also had the pleasure to have many students return to me for a second go-round this year.

@Anon & Dave (re: TFA) - I'm not TFA myself, but I entered the profession through a model not too different from TFA. The training is highly dependent on who trains you during that 6-week boot camp. I do love how TFA has helped flip the perception of teaching in an urban school from something completely undesirable to something respected. 5 years in now, I'm starting to see the effects the revolving door has on a school. Things would be so much easier if the staff stayed consistent.

I read the "Why Great Teachers Quit" posts, Dave. I enjoyed them. I've come to many of the same conclusions myself. I've got a post brewing for the near future.

Bkcpisme said...

Mr. G, you're my hero.

Eyawn said...

@Ben, The kind words are always appreciated.