Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Life Cycle of Teaching

In Baby Steps are Not Enough, the author shows an old candid camera video about Group Behavior an Elevator. First of all, it was great because it had me rolling! Then I began to think about how we are as teachers and how we influence each other. Maybe it is the cycle of life and maybe we need to really look at this cycle and see how we can change it.

New Teachers: You are taught certain styles and techniques but no one else in your school is teaching this way. You were also shown different ways to incorporate technology in your schools but no one else is doing this or at least the few that are sure aren’t telling anyone. You are full of great ideas to motivate and inspire young students but when you tell the veteran teachers, they smile at you indulgently and then move away snickering. Then you begin to doubt yourself. Maybe they know something you don’t. Maybe they know a better way and they aren’t inviting you into the club to find out about these better ways. You begin to not have the same enthusiasm that you had when you first arrived. No, you were warned about this attitude and you will stand fast and true to your beliefs. You will not give in. You will search for a personal learning community who can support your ideas and encourage you.

Teachers who are not new anymore but they aren’t the “war ravaged” veterans you have seen walking the halls: You have become jaded in your views about what you are doing in the classroom. You have tried new techniques but no one appreciates your hard work. You see these new teachers come in with their new ideas and remember when you once were one of them. Now you try to convince them to join your group because, let’s face it, you don’t want to look bad like you don’t care and if these new teachers keep showing how great they are doing, you won’t look so good! You don’t want to take the time to learn new stuff because you are finally coasting your way through the day. You don’t have to work as hard as when you first started and hey, isn’t that your right? You need to tell these new teachers they won’t get paid what they are worth and stop wasting their time trying to motivate and stimulate these youngsters. If they continue this way, maybe the administration might think you aren’t doing your job so you have got to stop these new teachers as soon as possible. You have a foot in both worlds and you are undecided on which way to lean. You want to feel that enthusiasm and excitement you felt as a new teacher but you feel a lot of pressure from the veteran teachers. Which way should you go?

Veteran teachers: You feel you have put in your time. You shouldn’t have to learn anything new and don’t want to either. These new fangled ideas are really messing up your place in the educational system. This is your time to coast until retirement. You don’t want to learn or do homework. You did that when you were new and now you have paid your dues. You feel it is your job to infect the newer teachers with this stale attitude because if you don’t, the administration might feel that all teachers need to start learning new things and it isn’t right for you to have to do this. You didn’t need all that new stuff when you were a student and you didn’t need it as a new teacher. If these new teachers were taught right, they would have been taught to make do with what they have instead of always reaching for the stars. What kind of role model is that for the kids? Before long, the students will want to reach out and learn new things (some of which you don’t know) and that will make you look really really bad. In fact, the administration might encourage you to retire. You need to get all the other veteran teachers to join your bandwagon so you can really pressure these new teachers to change their ways.

I hope that there will be more new teachers than the others and maybe they change be the vehicle of change. If you are new out there, maybe you can be the one who puts life back into the more experienced teachers. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen to their advice because most of it is really helpful. I’m just saying that if you want to try a new project with your class, don’t be afraid of doing it. What is the worst thing that could happen? It won’t work and you move on to try something else. Don’t let people tell you that it won’t work and let that keep you from trying. It might be that your personality and drive is what it needs in order for it to work. Then when you are successful, you might motivate and inspire other teachers to try new things. Yes, you might not have the experience in the classroom but the educational system needs your fresh ideas and energy to keep us all going! Don’t be afraid to be unique!


Clix said...

I see the "n00bs = idealistic" and "vets = reactionary" presented as a dichotomy or basic continuum a lot, and I just don't agree with it. I particularly dislike the idea that new-teacher enthusiasm is always positive and old-teacher resistance to change is always negative.

Idealistic enthusiasm can be arrogant, and without caution and planning, change can result in disorder. Yes, vets can learn from newbies, but it might be more helpful for the new teachers to go ask the vets what instructional styles they use and why they choose to use them, rather than to assume that the vets should come observe and mimic the new teachers.

And I know very few jaded vets who actively attempt to shape newbies into the same mold. They don't have to. If everyone just keeps to themselves and waits, it happens naturally.

IMO, the best way to prevent that kind of atrophy is to create a community in which everyone shares ideas with patience and humility.

loonyhiker said...

Clix: I think communication is very important for everyone. We can definitely learn from each other.

loonyhiker said...

Clix: I think communication is very important for everyone. We can definitely learn from each other.

Rodd Lucier said...

This post might do wonders if posted on a staffroom bulletin board! The wisdom of your words needs a larger audience...

loonyhiker said...

rodd lucier: Thank you for the compliment! I hope that some of my experiences will help others have a more successful career.