GLEN-LAMBERT: I appreciate that that's what your school is like, but at my school it's very much the opposite. My school has more experienced than inexperienced teachers. We try to pull new teachers in. We try to help them, especially in the beginning. We work together. We give them the materials they need.
SHEFFIELD: But often, I do think we're throwing these new teachers to the wolves. We're throwing them in the worst places they could possibly be, where there are already serious problems. They're out there on their own, in classrooms by themselves, at poorly functioning schools where most of the other teachers are also emergency-credentialed.
So what do we do about that? When Superintendent Romer came in, he agreed with you that this is a problem, but pointed out that under the union contract, the district has no right to assign teachers -- either to schools or to grades within the schools. He says that the senior teachers want the choice assignments at the better schools, and that leaves the inexperienced teachers the toughest jobs.
GLEN-LAMBERT: The choosing of the classes by seniority enables us to keep the same grade levels we've been teaching. I think that actually is very much to the advantage of the student. At my school, we have teams of teachers who work well together, so we choose to continue working together. The flip side of what Romer says is that if you don't have the teachers choosing their classes, it's fine if you have a good principal. I do have a good principal, but I've seen others who will capriciously move you around, break up teams or just put you in fifth grade when you're good at teaching first. That's a terrible situation for children.
So what would get a great teacher, what would motivate any of you sitting at this table, to go to a troubled school that could really use great teachers?
VALENCIA: I think a guarantee that the materials -- books, pencils, erasers -- are going to be there. I still don't have all my books for my students. I only have 21 students. My book request supposedly went in over the summer. But the books never came, and now there's a hold on all of the materials that were ordered. Promises are being made -- they're not being kept.
GLEN-LAMBERT: What would get me to go to another place is if it wasn't just me, if it was a number of people coming in who wanted to work hard together. Also if the school had a principal who was really good. I'd also want appreciation. When you go into a school that's really difficult, you tend to get all of this criticism for how your children are doing. I would want to know that I'm not expected to have results tomorrow.
One thing that I've heard both from you at this table and from Superintendent Romer is that new teachers need to spend time with their more experienced colleagues discussing instruction.
GLEN-LAMBERT: In the last three or four years at my school, we've been doing that. At least at my grade level, teachers meet regularly and work together. It's made a tremendous difference.
VALENCIA: The concept sounds as if it would work. Individual attention anytime works really well. But the thing is, a lot of our seasoned teachers won't agree to become mentor teachers. Everyone just feels overwhelmed. Another question I have about Romer's proposal to have beginning teachers observe in experienced teachers' classrooms for three weeks is, what would happen to the new teachers' students for those weeks? Observation is definitely a plus. The only thing is, the district needs to decide where these students are going to be placed during that time.
ARIAS: It's a problem. The new teacher's students are losing their teacher for three weeks. That's the first 15 days of instruction. Does this mean they're going to have a sub for 15 days? Logistically, there are still a few little bugs to be worked out in this, because someone is losing.
Who should select these mentor teachers? The principal?
KAPLAN: No. I think a master teacher should be selected by his or her peers.
ARIAS: There's also the issue of teacher coordinators. I also believe that we should continue to select our curriculum coordinators and department chairs. It shouldn't be the principal doing this.
That statement reflects a lack of faith in principals.
ARIAS: It goes back to the potential for capriciousness of the principal.
VALENCIA: Because we are the ones who work with coordinators and with mentor teachers, we should be the ones to select them through faculty elections, as we do now.
In Romer's view, this cripples a principal by not letting him or her pick a management team.
SHEFFIELD: We're just saying that a teacher's peers have better knowledge of what is going on within the classroom, and we should be able to pick people who will support us in the classroom. If I'm going to vote to choose a dean of students, I want a dean who will support me when I send a student to the dean's office.
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