Sunday, July 10, 2016

Are the Best Teachers Really at the Best Schools?

Here's the question: Are the good teachers at the best schools, or are they good teachers because they are at the best schools? What would happen if they went to bad schools?

We hear this a lot in education these days. That the teachers that are the best and most experienced are at the best schools. Are they really? Does the school make you a good teacher? Can it make you a bad teacher?

Here's what we do know. That many of the most experienced teachers who have a choice, choose the better schools and classes. I know this first hand. As a new teacher in high school, I did not even have my own room. I traveled. Yup, I had a cart to keep my world belongings on. While other teachers had a bit of break, I was trying hard to wheel myself through hundreds of students trying to make my next class. The first and last minutes of every class I taught were not good. I had to unpack, get organized, then do the reverse. And many times the teacher in whose classroom I was would stick around. Not a good situation. I also taught all freshmen classes. Not having your own room really made things bad. If you think you can be the same great teacher while traveling, well more power to you. The teachers' "lounge" was where I had to grade and regroup. Needless to say, I took a lot of work home.

Did teachers who had been there a while have to travel? Of course not! They earned their own room. They also taught AP or upper level classes. Most of them were small classes and full of the brightest (read: well-behaved, most focused) students. Not only was I set up to fail, but my students were also set up. Sticking a new teacher with the worst possible teaching situation and students, seemed to be the norm. Nobody cared. Nobody ever thought to say, "Hey! Maybe we need the more experienced teachers doing the hard classes." But....no. There's this hierarchy that has been going on for ages. Older teachers get the best jobs and assignments. Newer teachers are always thrown to the wolves. Why not? If given a choice, why would you choose the worst?

Please note this does not go on 100% of the time. But I do know that some newer teachers are handpicked for the best schools. They know people. So it can depend on who you know.

So that leads to the first question. Do those new teachers put in the best schools instantly become good teachers? Why not? They have the best teaching situation. The same might be said for veteran teachers as well. They thrive at good schools. They get rewarded with being at great schools.

So what happens to the lousy schools? They seem to get the majority of inexperienced teachers. When they get a little tenure, they move on if given the choice. Why would they stay?

So maybe, just maybe, we only think the best teachers are at the best schools because they have all the advantages to become one. If all 30 of your students read at grade level, how much easier is it for you to teach? Do extra things? Thrive? Be a stress-free teacher? Who wouldn't love it!

Now take someone else. They are a brand new teacher. They get put in a school that is in desperate need of repairs. No White students. No parental involvement. 90% of your kids can't even read two grades below grade level. You think that's an easy assignment? You work hard, get your students up a grade level, and you are still looked upon as a failure. You have to deal with discipline problems constantly. Students have little decent materials to work with.

And the cycle goes on and on.

Why do we not start doing the reverse? If a teacher really is great and experienced, why are we not stuffing our lousy schools with them? Put their skills to good use!

Or maybe that's not going to make a difference. Perhaps a great teacher who gets results......owes it all to the school and environment they are in.

We don't think the teachers at good schools would put up with being moved. Yes, I know this first hand. Once a teacher is in a dream job, they aint movin'!

And that could be the heart of the problem.

> Checkout: Good games to play in the classroom.

1 comment:

  1. A good teacher is a good teacher, no matter where they are. My first teaching assignment was at an inner city school. EVERYONE traveled and I did well there. I had the respect of the students and I earned good scores. I now work at an affluent school. I'm doing well there. I have the respect of the students and I earn good scores. Just because it's a "good" school doesn't mean it's set up to support greatness...every school has its challenges. Also, you have to pay your dues...I think the newer generation never learned this lesson. You're new, so no, you're not going to get the best assignment. Everyone, regardless of profession, gets the hard assignment until they've paid their dues. That's life. You don't deserve the cushiest assignment just because you have a job. You get to earn that with time, effort and experience.

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