Just as the city faces a possible round of teacher layoffs, a debate is brewing over who should be let go first. Chancellor Joel Klein wants to do away with the city’s seniority-based system that makes younger teachers the first casualties of budget cuts. One of his arguments for giving experienced teachers less protection is that after the first few years, the number of years under teachers’ belts has little relation to how well they teach.
In the GothamSchools Community section, former teacher Diana Senechal disputes that claim, arguing that veteran teachers benefit their students in ways that can’t be measured by tests.
Repetition brings not only fluency, but insight; when you teach a subject over and over (especially a subject you know and love), you see more in it and find different ways of presenting it. Your repertoire grows; you have more materials, ideas, and lessons in your mind and file cabinets. You know how to reach your students; you are less severely affected by the day’s or the year’s ups and downs, distractions, and interruptions. Experienced teachers are also a great asset to novice teachers who need advice, encouragement, and guidance. When a school goes through upheavals every few years — discarding one model for another, or firing half its staff — a veteran teacher can help keep the school and its purpose intact.