April 27, 2015

Monday Musings: Older is Better!

A lot of education reformers seem to think that a young teacher is better than an older one.  But as this quotation reminds us, an older teacher is a more experienced teacher and has lots to offer more novice colleagues.

Certainly, when I was new to public school teaching, the learning curve from teaching adults--which I'd done for about six and a half years--to teaching lower elementary students was steep.  The younger the students, the more difficult it was for me.  It took several years, and a lot of support from other expert and experienced kindergarten teachers before I ever felt comfortable teaching that age group and lower elementary kids in general.

And teaching content subjects to middle school ELLs using the approach called content-based ESL, which I was told to do my second year, also involved a transition that took quite a few years.  Every year I taught social studies, I added more and more English language development.  My courses shifted from a class that was little different from the mainstream regular ed social studies classes to a class that incorporated language support specifically designed to help ELLs access the social studies curriculum.  It wasn't until I'd been teaching those ESL Social Studies classes for perhaps a decade that I truly felt I was doing them justice and teaching the students what they needed to be successful. 

The benefits of hiring older teachers
Age has its benefits! source: Graphicstock
So to all those people who prefer to hire young teachers because they think those educators will cost less, will have more energy, will have more knowledge of cutting-edge technology, and can better relate to students because they are closer in age to them, I say this: Teachers who are older are worth it!  We have the experience to know how to deal with challenging students, we know how to change lessons around on the fly when technology doesn't work--which happens all too often, we know how to teach students at varying levels of ability, and we have the wisdom that comes with age to know that what's old will be new again.  And then teachers who are experienced educators will be valued once more.

I thank all the teachers who helped me when I first started teaching in a public school.  Their knowledge, friendship, and know-how made my job much, much easier.