“I’m Glad I Got a Young Teacher.”

This was a direct quote from a future teacher as she left my room after her first observation. Directly after hearing this, I was conflicted with emotions. As I am quickly approaching my mid-30s, my vanity was flattered that I could still pass for “young” to a college age adult. However after that glow faded, I began to think, “Would it really be that bad if you got an “old” teacher?”

I chewed with this for a few days. I know that there are two camps for this issue. One side values youth, passion, and innovation in a teacher. They see older teachers as inflexible, cynical, and burnt out. The other side values experience, respect, and commitment. They see new teachers as naive, idealistic, and invaluable.

My district used to be on the latter side. If there were to be cuts in staffing, it started with the newest teachers. Some of these teachers had amazing potential. I think of a friend of mine at my school. Who knows what Ms. Rae could have accomplished if she was given more time? Studies have shown that teachers hit their stride in the third year. If districts continue to value only experience, we will lose valuable younger teachers who couldn’t break into the field.

Recently, my state made it illegal to only consider years of experience in regards to issues of reductions in staffing. It was up to each district to design their own plan. My district rolled out a complicated formula in which many different factors such as certification, level of education, professional contributions, subject/grade etc. The factor that gets the most points in this formula is still years of experience. It is impossible for a first year teacher with a doctorate to be considered over a 20 year veteran teacher in the same area or grade level.

Someone once told me that only a teacher with no experience would want administrators to not consider years of experience. I have 8 years of experience and I don’t think this is true either. Education needs experienced teachers to help mentor the new teachers. Experienced teachers should be respected and rewarded for their years of service. I know many experienced teachers who are amazing educators and we need to keep them in the field as long as possible.

However, I know as many rookie teachers who are just as amazing AND I know a few veteran teachers who probably should have gotten the axe several years ago.

My point is that we need to stop looking at the years of experience of a teacher as the major factor in considering their worth. There is more to consider when comparing a new teacher to an older teacher. Experienced teacher is not synonymous with a good teacher nor is a younger teacher automatically any better than a veteran teacher. A good teacher could be a first year teacher or it could be a teacher with 35 years of experience.

I hope that at the end of the semester, my college student is no longer glad that she got a young teacher but that she is thrilled that she got a great teacher.  

 

 

Donnie Dicus

Donnie Dicus

Tucson, Arizona

My name is Donnie Dicus and I have been teaching in Arizona for 12 years. I came to Arizona from Southern Illinois to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. I graduated in 2003 and began teaching second grade. I taught second grade in Tucson for 8 years before moving to Phoenix. I now teach third grade. I achieved National Board Certification in 2012 and I received my Master’s Degree from Grand Canyon University in 2015. I achieved a National Board Certificate in Middle Childhood Generalist in 2012. I’ve been teaching mainstream and SEI 3rd grade classrooms in the Cartwright School District in Phoenix since 2013. I taught 2nd grade and was a math interventionist in Tucson in the Amphitheater School District. I’ve been a technology coach and have helped teachers apply technology to improve instruction. I facilitate coaching cohorts for teachers going through the National Board process and organize peer groups at my site to pair new teachers with experienced teachers. In 2010 I was nominated as a Rodel Semi-Finalist for Exemplary teaching in 2010 and featured as a Teacher Leader in February 2016 by the Arizona K12 Center.
I have class pictures of every single student I have taught behind my desk on my wall. After 12 years, that is approximately 350 students. My students know that this is my Wall of Accomplishments. I am so proud of the difference I made in their lives. I became a teacher to make a difference and I strive to do so every day.

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