Apr 062016

Someone in my critical pedagogy class made a very astute comment the last class. We were discussing professionalism, the fact that there are many attempts at deprofessionalizing teaching going on today, and we were having a great conversation about who is benefiting from these acts. Who is pushing the process, who is benefiting, who does not benefit? These questions are all worth pursuing, and then the classmate drops a thought bomb on the class. It has stuck with me for a week now, and I still am not sure how to answer it it.

Here it is: ¬†Aren’t we, as teachers, partially to blame for the¬†deprofessionalizing of education? After all, we admit the first year or two of teaching are “throw-away” years where the teacher just has to learn what the need on their own. You don’t ever hear flight controllers say, “It’s okay if you crashed those planes together, it is your first year,” or “It’s okay that building you designed fell down, it’s your first year of architecturing.”



Drop that right on us, as teachers. As teacher leaders. As teacher educators.

Yup, we have to own that one. Professionals don’t let that kind of thing happen. Professionals support the pre and new service teacher. Professionals don’t allow for this type of failure, and let’s not mince words. A child whose education is harmed because a new teacher fails is just as bad OR WORSE than the plane crashing.

How do we stop it?

Mentoring came up repeatedly in the conversation. We must mentor pre-service teachers closely and support them completely. We must mentor new teachers with the same vigor.

Social and Emotional Learning came up in the conversation. Getting teachers right from day one to realize they teach PEOPLE, not content.

Critical Theory / Social Justice came up (duh, it is that class after all). But it came up not because we were in the class, but because this is how teachers, new teachers, beginning teachers can learn how to engage with their learners and start problem-posing instead of banking. Freire’s approach to education turns the classroom away from teacher centered to learner and learning centered. In this type of environment, the teacher gets to know their learners better, so they don’t inadvertently cause harm.

All in all, it is a very small thought-bomb that was dropped, but the implications are far reaching.

Are we professionals?

If the answer is yes, then we can not, ever, accept a “throw away year” in teaching. Every single day counts, and we have to help, support, and develop every single teacher in that focus.

  3 Responses to “Why do we throw away the first years?”

  1. It sounds like you’re talking about a mentoring/residency kind of model. Perhaps something like the medical profession has where doctors spend their first years out of school under the responsibility of someone else while they are a resident. Or at least that kind of model is one that has been suggested for addressing that situation. Maybe you were thinking of something else?

  2. I am going through that process and I have talked to many of my peers and I am so glad I got a lead teacher during my internship because I truly feel prepare for my first year of teaching. I may not know all the answers but my lead teacher truly fully trained me, and kept me on checked because he mentioned that I have a responsibility to challenge our students. We talked about content, classroom management, expectations, class directions, personal relationships, ,parent involvement and my involvement as a teacher in school.
    However, when I talked to my peers that had paid internships or even lead teachers they mention how they struggled with everything I mentioned above. Now that I ask them if they are excited about beginning to teach their answer is not the most convincing.
    Another comment I heard, this one from my lead teacher, he said how other teachers that have had student teachers they simply just handle the control of the class and leave them on their own. My lead teacher gave me full control but never really left me alone. I had a great experience and I truly believe that I will not throw my first years away, its actually the opposite. I feel that I am going to truly be an asset to my school.
    Overall, I think we should really concentrate on not only training our student teachers but our lead teachers so when our new teachers begin they already know what they were supposed to learned throughput those “first years that we throw away” and not make the same mistakes that previous new teachers made.

  3. I agree completely Jose. That is one reason why I took the job I did. Thank you for your suggestions on how to improve teacher ed! It is very important to me that we listen to you.

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