On Experience and Commitment
A little word about commitment... When I started teaching, I never knew I'd be a career teacher. I wanted to work with kids, but I wasn't sure how comitted I was. Lately, when faced with the idea of leaving the classroom in favor of other opportunities, I feel an increasingly level of commitment to classroom teaching. The classroom is where the action is, like the foreground of the painting that is education. The background and setting and everything that goes into that is extremely important, but students and teachers are the main characters in the story--the protagonists, even. I don't want to leave that story. It's too interesting and important, and I'm still working to understand my part in it.
One thing that fuels my fire to continue as a classroom teacher is seeing my amazing veteran teacher colleagues in action with students. I think I'm a good teacher, but I love seeing those who are clearly further along in their development than I am. It reminds me how much better I want to get, and helps me work for it more consciousy and look forward to it more concretely. Many of my veteran colleagues have taken time off from the classroom, or worked in hybrid roles, but always come back to keep contributing and growing as classroom teachers. I want to be them when I grow up :)
That said, it's mindboggling to me that the policy world is failing to understand how important experience is in classroom teaching, often encouraging teacher candidates to do short stints in classrooms with our nations neediest students. David Cohen of TLN and Accomplished California Teachers breaks this down really well in a great post called Experience Counts. Check it out!
All the most inspiring and effective teachers I had as a kid were experienced. Experienced teachers are the backbone of a school community. I have worked in schools with a healthy mix of veteran, new and mid-career teachers, which is ideal. I have also been a part of a school staffed with mostly beginning teachers, where I was considered seasoned with just a couple years of experience. Turnover was high, and this created instability for students and the entire school community. It was an unsettling experience, and I came to feel that the center just could not hold.
Students need experienced teachers, and teachers need experienced teachers.
[image credit: schoolspring.com]