In June 2015, I had the opportunity to attend the Big Apple awards which recognizes teachers who have demonstrated excellence. In point of full disclosure, I was invited by one of the recipients of the award, Rick Ouimet. Having had the chance to teach with Mr. Ouimet at Stevenson High School as a colleague, and at Millennium High School team teaching with him, I’d have to say this choice was not only prudent but well deserved.
As I watched the celebrants, and listened to their bios, I was struck by an interesting thread that seemed to run through the presentations which was that none of the awardees had less than a decade of experience. One had thirty-four years of experience, while another had twenty-four and yet another one had sixteen years of experience. Not one of them was a three year or a five year teacher! This is particularly interesting to me because when I look at the way experienced teachers are being herded into ATR pols, or harassed or “encouraged” to retire because we “need younger teachers who are connected to or in tune with the students in the 21st century, it seems there is little interest in acknowledging or employing the expertise and skills of these teachers. Charter schools regularly eschew them and smaller schools routinely avoid them because they “cost too much.”
Having taught four decades, and having had the privilege of working with so many talented and experienced educators throughout those four decades, I can say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that becoming a good teacher takes time. Nor only do you need time to develop and hone your skills, you need time to learn about kids and “how they work.” You don’t develop these skills in a vacuum, but through the mentoring, assistance and wisdom of more experience people with years of experience, tired and true, proven methods, strategies, best practices and techniques.
When people speak about “reforming education” they seem to spend little or no time on the rock bottom foundation which is experienced teachers, for experienced teachers not only educate the students in their rooms, they mentor younger teachers and help them to develop and hone their skills, and share best practices with them.
The definition of wisdom is “accumulated philosophic or scientific learning and knowledge.” By definition, wisdom is developed over time. You can’t short cut it or microwave it. It has to run its course.