Thursday, September 01, 2005

Learning from the Experienced, oops, Elderly

One of the principles,or main objectives, of the Dovrat Plan to "restructure" Israeli education, is that old teachers are inferior to new young ones, and there must be a major staff replacement. They even plan on reducing the salaries of the teachers with seniority and giving the money to young academics straight out of university as "incentive." (Yes, the unions are working hard to make sure that salaries aren't reduced.)

One of the stranger things behind the rationale is that on one hand they complain that Israel's academic standing, in the international ranking of students is going down, meaning that previously Israeli students did much better, and their solution is to train new teachers very differently from how the old, veteran, successful ones were taught.

Until a very short time ago, an Israeli teacher's license wasn't attached to a university degree. And these were the teachers who had the legendary good results. Now university degrees are part of the minimal requirements, and academic success is dropping.

In the drive to bring "young blood" into education over the past decade, in many cases, school principles have been making conditions less comfortable for the older teacher, with the aim of having a "fresh, new staff that can be molded." Experience is considered a disadvantage.

This morning I found a wonderful article about "age verses beauty" by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld. It's from his series about Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers. He explains the different types of intelligence found in the older verses the younger person.

I'm very lucky to be teaching in a school in which the staff is of all generations. I have no doubt that the students benefit from this mix and our experience. I know that we contribute our knowledge based on all that we have done and learned over the years.

Nowadays most teaching is from "workbooks," and there is actually less creativity in developing the lessons. More veteran teachers, from the pre-workbook times, are actually more flexible and more creative. One can't teach creativity in the university lecture hall.

Age and experience give a perspective that no degree requirements can. It's time to appreciate and value age before beauty.


Moze said...

OTOH, senority doesn't always mean quality. In my daughter's elementary school we had:
1) A teacher with nearly 50 years seniority who phsyically abused students yet couldn't be fired because she lost a son in Lebanon.

2) An English teacher who barely spoke the language, couldn't spell, and copied all test (albeit with her own errors) straight out of Eric Cohen books, but was the senior English teacher in the school.

3) A homeroom teacher who told students they were "dumber than plants," "idiots," and "would be lucky if they could figure out how to be mothers since they wouldn't be good for anything else" but who had seniority up the wazoo.

The new teachers aren't always good, but they are trainable--and fear getting fired, so they are responsive.

I'm no fan of the Israeli educational system's attachment to a new system every year, but if the plan means we can get rid of some of the deadwood hanging on, hiding behind their seniority, I'm for that section of the plan.

Batya said...

All countries have this problem, since teacher's unions are powerful.

For the really bad there are ways to get rid of them, and if the principal is weak go over his/her head.