Generational Divides: Senior Teachers and Younger Supervisors Must Learn to Work Together, Change is Inevitable, Resisting Change is Antithetical to Building Effective Schools, Participation Reduces Resistance.

 A teacher relates,
“I’ve been teaching math for a quarter of a century in the same school until it closed. Once in a while I’d be observed, it was always complementary. I was a mentor and for the last few years the acting Assistant Principal. When my school closed I was hired in a small high school. The principal is young, he’s not from the Leadership Academy, he taught for a while and was an assistant principal. He’s a strong disciplinarian and the students respect him. He came into my room for a few minutes almost every day, he’d make suggestions. I told him I knew what I was doing and found the visits intrusive. Tells me that he viewed frequent classroom visits as an essential part of his job. His suggestions became criticisms: discipline was poor, I didn’t make use of the disaggregated student achievement data, I didn’t differentiate instruction, etc.  He thought I could benefit from videotaping my lesson and he’d go over it with me. I spoke to the union rep and he advised against it. ‘What can he do to you, you have tenure?’  I told the principal these kids came to school unprepared, they lived in the projects, weren’t interested in school. He has to understand their limitations. He told me my attitude was unacceptable and perhaps I should find another school.”
A principal responds,
“I drop into classrooms everyday for a few minutes, most teachers are used to it. Later in the day I may ask a question or make a suggestion. At the beginning of the term I provide each teacher with an ‘error matrix’ of the State exam results. I ask them, regardless of their subject area, to address the areas that need support. I urge them to develop projects and give them planning time to work with colleagues. One of the math teachers has been teaching a long time, his classroom discipline is poor, he has no rapport with the students, he pays no attention to the disaggregated data, he plods along, and resents any suggestions.  At our last meeting he denigrated the kids and uses the neighborhood and their background as an excuse. I told him it was our responsibility to move them forward, the neighborhood was an obstacle, not an excuse. I suggested he might be happier in another school, he ran to the union rep who tells me I’m trying to push him out because of his age and salary.”
Generational differences both within the union and between senior staff and younger supervisors are deep-seated problems within schools, Susan Moore Johnson at Harvard University is involved in extensive research exploring this issue.
For decades urban school systems faced teacher shortages: poor pay, lousy working conditions, a lack of status, teachers stayed a few months or a few years and moved along. School success/failure was zip code driven. High dropout rates, school violence, poor attendance were accepted as a reality of urban education. School staffs evolved, a cohort of “lifers,” who ran the school and an ever changing population of new teachers, most of whom left for another profession. In the mid-nineties 17% of NYC teachers were uncertified, they were unable to pass the low level teacher entry exams but were allowed to continue to teach.
For the senior teacher a teacher’s job was to teach the kids who chose to come to class. If students chose not to come to school, not to do their homework, not to study, so be it, that was their decision.
“We’re not social workers, we can’t solve intractable problems of the inner city; technology is a distraction more than a tool.”
boomers may believe gen Xers are too impatient and willing to throw out the tried-and-true strategies, while gen Xers may view boomers as always trying to say the right thing to the right person and being inflexible to change. Traditionalists may view baby boomers as self-absorbed and prone to sharing too much information, and baby boomers may view traditionalists as dictatorial and rigid. And, gen Xers may consider millennials too spoiled and self-absorbed, while millennials may view gen Xers as too cynical and negative.
The younger supervisors/teachers are used to working in groups, sharing ideas, sharing lesson plans and materials. They believe schools are part of communities and school staffs must function within the communities. The culture of the community cannot be ignored. Working with faith-based organizations, the local precinct, community-based organizations are part of being a teacher. Jumping into your car at the end of the day and driving home to be suburbs is no longer acceptable behavior, so says younger teachers/supervisors. They believe the teacher union contracts must not be impediments or excuses to effective teaching/learning strategies.
Peter Senge, the management guru, famously wrote,


“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!”

The expectation of teachers has changed, the bar has risen. Simply walking into class and teaching, ignoring the interconnection of teaching and learning is no longer acceptable. The role of the teacher leader has evolved to a change agent. To work with new teachers in skills acquisition as well as to support experienced teachers in new skills acquisition, to involve all teachers, new and experienced, in the change process.  Participation reduces resistance.
Change is inevitable. Teacher evaluation will include, to some extent, pupil achievement data. New roles as lead teachers or mentors or curriculum experts, with higher remuneration will become part of teacher contracts. Teacher dismissal will take months rather than years. And, the Teacher Data Reports, the new State teacher evaluation system  (grades on 100 point scale), over time will become, like baseball batting averages, readily available.
We have to figure how change can be made less threatening and includes those who are being changed.



12 responses to “Generational Divides: Senior Teachers and Younger Supervisors Must Learn to Work Together, Change is Inevitable, Resisting Change is Antithetical to Building Effective Schools, Participation Reduces Resistance.

  1. Oh, I love this post…I am so sick and tired of the old fart teachers I could spit.
    And I’m an old fart teacher.
    I’m sick and tired of o.f.t.s.’ who claim that trial by fire is the norm and we should accept it.
    I’m sick and tired of o.f.t.s’ who claim a good teacher can handle anything-including 400 kids in an auditorium-alone.
    I am sick and tired of o.f.t.s’ who believed they are entitled to ‘feather their bed’ because they have been in the system for 30 years.
    I’m sick and tired of o.f.t.s’ who don’t do email.
    I’m sick and tired of o.f.t.s’ who have to be dragged kicking and screaming on a class trip because they don’t:
    go on the subway
    don’t go to Manhattan
    don’t go to Brooklyn
    don’t do the yellow cheese bus
    I’m sick and tired of o.f.t.s’ who have snared a related services position and can’t seem to pick the kids up according to any schedule, don’t complete the entire required 20minute-30 minute-40 minute session, show no results after years of working with one student and then have the gall to say to me-I’m mandated.
    I’m sick and tired of o.f.t.s’ who have no knowledge of any educational idea developed in the past 10 years so they can change it and make it better. People, who if they had spent any time studying or sharpening the tools of their trade, could have made some real valid changes in our system.
    I am sick and tired of o.f.t.s’ who wouldn’t say shit if their mouth was full of it because they are just thinking about getting out [pension] and they are afraid.
    I am sick and tired of the guilt-tripping, manipulative teachers who weep to me that these kids are from crappy homes and nothing can be done. Abraham Lincoln came from a crappy home; so did my parents. But some teacher decided that she wasn’t teaching them to be like their parents; she was teaching them to be like themselves.
    But the sad part of this is it’s not generational. It’s just that some people who are selfish decide to become teachers.
    I wish they would go away.


  2. northbrooklyn just sounds generally sick and tired…
    …and cranky, like an o.f.t…
    Or maybe late Thursday night just isn’t a good time for northbrooklyn?
    or maybe…
    Time to retire?


  3. Naughty, naughty Avi…
    I haven’t changed my opinion much since the first day I started this 2nd career that I love.
    I do know that it is better to ignore the dinosaurs in my school, take from what the young teach me and blend that new knowledge with my experience.
    I can’t even imagine what it’s like to work with you…but my guess is you wouldn’t take 75 eight year olds, 5 teachers and 15 parents on a school trip.


  4. Dr. J. Fleitman

    I stongly agree with Avi Lewis’s reply to northbrooklyn’s opinions concerning what he called “o.f.t’s”. Instead of denigrating veteran teachers, northbrooklyn should instead honestly question how and why did our (once) excellent school system become what it sadly is today. If northbrooklyn was able to rationally consider and respond to my previous questions, then he or she may begin to understand why many dedicated,veteran teachers have become cynical and mistrustful of past and present chancellors (especially Joel Klein) and those serving in central and local school administations. I would gladly work with an entire staff consisting of what northbrooklyn has labeled “old fart teachers” than with one self-serving, unprofessional and “rookie” school administrator or supervisor.


  5. northbrooklyn: ” I haven’t changed my opinion much since the first day I started this 2nd career…”
    Hardly a thing to brag about!

    also northbrooklyn: “I can’t even imagine what it’s like to work with you…but my guess is you wouldn’t take 75 eight year olds, 5 teachers and 15 parents on a school trip.”
    You’re right; you can’t. So why guess and make yourself seem even sillier?


  6. Doctor J-
    I think you should go ahead and be the principal/a.p. of a NYC public school. And I think you should stock your staff w/ the o.f.t.’s I have described in my original post. I would happily provide you a list.
    You can also have my administrators to help you; they have been in the system for along time-so they are seasoned. They are also self-serving and unprofessional.
    Should be a grand place-make sure you name it something pompous.


  7. Gee, let me check my lesson plan book…
    This Monday: Museum of Natural History-Gem Room. 65 7 year olds, 6 teachers, and10 parents. Yellow cheese bus. Purpose: to expand our understanding of rocks and minerals as part of the 2nd grade science unit.
    Next Tuesday: CPZ and Central Park walk-about w/3,4,5, grades. 94 students, 8 teachers, 15 parents. Subway. Purpose: compare and contrast species adaptaions (4thgrade), use measurement in a meaningful way to discuss how species size can protect them (3rd grade), how exercise can be fun and change how you feel in the short/long term (5th grade).
    Oh, yeah, there are observations by QR folk and parent teachers conference and then it’s December…not much traveling going on but I am helping a new teacher thorough her first trip-always scary. And then there are the speakers we have arranged to come to the school to discuss their occupations and how it relates to the subject for Dec. and Jan.
    Those are just the extras.
    The day to day is teaching roughly 120 students from the ages of 5 to 12.
    Kids who pick up fragile shells and never break them. Who speak softly to the anoles, hold the tape for the student next to them as they struggle to get the electric car axle just right, show the new kid how to set up their notebook. Students who write and draw with an astonishing precision.
    I was going to invite you over, or suggest you take a trip with me and my students, but it’s pretty clear:
    I’m just too silly for you.


  8. Dr. J. Fleitman

    Northbrooklyn should consider becoming an assistant principal and possibly a principal in a school that has a staff which mirrors his own set of negative, counterproductive and unprofessional attitudes. After a year of banging his head against an office wall, northbrooklyn would probably wish that he had a staff that consisted of more experienced, “old fart teachers” whom he accused of hindering our schools from implememting innovative and meaningful educational and social reforms. Be careful for what you wish, northbrooklyn: you, too, may eventually become the same type of teacher that you so loosely called, “old farts”.


  9. I am tired of people making this argument that because a teacher is veteran that means they are washed-up/burnt out and have no interests in exposing the kids to anything. At my school, it is the older, more experienced faculty who go on trips out of state, supervise the yearbook, and take kids on college tours while many of us who are younger are too tired from juggling teaching loads/master’s programs to do anything enriching for the kids- or who are simply using teaching as a launching pad to their next great careers as well. I’ve seen both sides of the coin.


  10. I have been thinking about why I found northbrooklyn’s original response and follow-up responses so annoying. I think I’ve narrowed it down a bit.

    The original response: Viscerally, I think I reacted, at least in part, as a function of the “old fart” terminology. Consider whether parallel pejorative phrases, had they been applied to almost any other group, (racial, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, etc.,) would have been acceptable, even if applied in a partially humorous way; I doubt it. northbrooklyn owes the readers of this blog an apology for using that phrase, and I think the rest of us should refrain from using it, even in quoting northbrooklyn.(Compliments to dalilou for handling that better than I did.)

    As far as northbrooklyn’s follow-up responses are concerned, I think I found them objectionable mostly because northbrooklyn seems so full of him- (or her-) self. That’s particularly grating when it comes from someone who writes anonymously, and even moreso when the writer makes assumptions about others based on nothing whatsoever.


  11. Dr. J. Fleitman

    I compliment Avi Lewis’s on his ability to see right through northbrooklyn’s faulty thinking and non irrational attitudes about diverse cultural and pedagogical differences that exist in most school setttings. Two important questions that northbrooklyn should have asked were: Are those differences recognized and utilized for developing realistic and meaningful instructional goals and objectives? If so, how can the gap between the differences become smaller and hopefully part of the overall school setting?


  12. Pingback: Generational Divides: Senior Teachers and Younger Supervisors Must Learn to Work Together | Edwize

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