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What to do about Teaching Fellows?

June 7, 2008 pm30 10:00 pm

There are stereotypes about Teaching Fellows (see previous post):

  • young
  • white
  • smug
  • brimming with self-confidence; but not knowing how to teach
  • dismissive of other teachers; disrespectful
  • degrees from fancy colleges
  • from the suburbs; or from other parts of the country
  • clueless
  • suck-ups to APs and Principals
  • know-it-alls
  • easy targets of nasty APs and Principals

There’s enough truth to each of these that none should be dismissed lightly.

How should we (teachers, teachers union) react to these teachers? I see a variety of options, all of which have been tried to one extent or another. None is perfect. But some are harmful.

(A few responses, below the fold)

1. Ignore them

2. Remain hostile

Let them crash and burn. Or let them become APs pets. Let bad classes eat them alive. Or just let our own resentment build as they are given the classes someone else wanted, get praised in the Principal’s newsletter, etc.

3. Celebrate their newness.

This is the generation where everyone wins a prize. Tell them they are wonderful, and how glad we are to have them. No matter what they are actually doing.

4. Acknowledge that they will be part of the pool of temporary teachers (ever-growing pool), and ensure that that system runs smoothly by helping them while they are here.

5. Something else.

When the Fellows began to arrive, many senior teachers ignored them or were hostile to them. I understand the reasons. Even now, in schools where there is a mix of senior teachers and Fellows, there is hostility, resentment, indifference. But this kind of division is harmful to all of us. It allows administrators to play us off against each other (the TF as department assist/snitch) or to pick on some of us while the others pretend its Kitty Genovese (TF, fake charge, U, 3020a, byebye, without anyone looking up from their newspaper)

The UFT, in a fashion, celebrates TF newness. There were special New Teacher meetings downtown. The UFT toyed with a regular new teachers’ committee. New Teacher diaries (sometimes full of rookie mistakes) get printed in the New York Teacher and published on Edwize. It is ok to say good things about new teachers, but this practice goes beyond that.

The more general UFT approach has been to provide additional career and $$ paths to the shrinking minority who actually stick with the job. Teachers Centers. Patronage. Lead Teachers. Mentors. C-30s, SLTs, all of the collaborative model stuff, that fit in here. In this model, service is provided to newer members, but an overall policy of benign neglect reigns. We’ll take care of you for your two or three years. Thanks for stopping by.

But there are more ways to approach the influx of Teaching Fellows. Some haven’t been tried, some have been tried, but only on a limited scale. And they are worth exploring further.

And other approaches to the Fellows themselves will be the topic of the next post.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2008 pm30 9:44 pm 9:44 pm

    I’d differentiate a stance towards the policy – i.e. you seem to be concerned with the DOE filling 20% of new teaching slots with fellows – from a stance towards the fellows themselves. Once they’re in the building, they’re colleagues and team members. So my view would be something like #3 and #4 – welcome them and support them, even if they are only at the school for a few years.

  2. June 8, 2008 pm30 11:00 pm 11:00 pm

    I’m a teaching fellow, but I see where you’re coming from with this. I’ve definitely seen many of these attitudes and characteristics. I’ll be waiting in anticipation for what people have to say about them.

  3. June 9, 2008 am30 2:42 am 2:42 am

    The continued use of “Teaching Fellows” and TFA teachers only adds to the ATR crises. Many of the Leadership Academy principals are hiring inexpensive and inexperienced teachers at the expense of the students.

    edwonkette may be correct that they become colleagues. However, what about the experienced teacher without a classroom that they replaced? Or worse the “rubber room”? They may be colleagues but until they are in the school for three years don’t count on me to welcome them.

    I guess I choose #1 and #2.

  4. Kris permalink
    June 19, 2008 am30 3:01 am 3:01 am

    Remember…we were all new teachers once. You should never treat any of your colleagues with disrespect – even if they are a “Teaching Fellow”. Some Teaching Fellows are just as qualified as a new teacher, and some of them are great.

    I’m a Teaching Fellow, just finishing my second year. I am white, 37 years old, and went to a very good college (but not ivy league) and studied math but not education. Right out of college I worked for a large financial institution. So, unlike a lot of brand new teachers, I have real world experience and know how math relates to a finance career, unlike many teachers who go the traditional route. And, I believe my students have received an excellent education, and my principal, AP, students and parents agree.

    So, before you are snide and obnoxious to new Teaching Fellows, find out what they have to offer- you never know, you may be surprised! Keep your mind open- otherwise you never know when that Teaching Fellow you were rude to may be your next AP.

  5. June 19, 2008 am30 6:31 am 6:31 am

    Kris,

    thanks for reading here. Most new teachers, fellows included, start out mediocre at best. But we should be working together – help teaching, help keep aggressive APs away from you, etc.

    We all grow in the job, and I’d like to think that, given the chance to grow, many more Fellows would keep teaching. And part of providing you with that chance means that we, all of us, teachers, need to treat each other well, offer assistance, etc.

    That being said, there are problems of respect. And I hear more complaints about Fellows being disrespectful towards people who have been doing the job for a long time than the other way around.

    Shouldn’t be happening, not in either direction.

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  1. Posts from last summer about new teachers « JD2718

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