To the Editor:
Regarding your June 4, 2008, article “Phila. 9th Graders Found to Get Least-Seasoned Teachers”:
I’ve been teaching 9th graders in the Philadelphia public schools for 11 years. Although I find this age group innocent and endearing, many of my colleagues view high school freshmen as they would a bad case of hemorrhoids.
Ninth graders have notoriously high levels of energy and can be incredibly immature. They burp out loud, poke each other, giggle over the opposite sex, and have uncanny ways of finding double meanings in just about everything. And 9th grade classes are frequently very large.
Schoolteachers are not martyrs, despite society’s idealistic (and, to my mind, unrealistic) vision of education. Those of us with the most skills and experience are going to seek the most satisfying—and yes, the most comfortable—positions available to us. Often we are looking to teach upperclassmen, students who have already survived the first years of high school, those who are focused, mature, and have gotten most of the ants out of their pants.
If we are going to organize public education around student needs rather than adult preferences, then it’s time for the Philadelphia school district to create incentives for teaching freshmen. For starters, it should cut the size of 9th grade classes from 33 to 24. Next, it should be more aggressive in holding accountable the parents of 9th graders who are consistently truant. Lastly, the district should institute a “freshman pay bonus” to help attract the schools’ best educators.
High school freshmen are a lovable yet tough group to handle, and educators should be compensated for the extra effort.
Swenson Arts and Technology High School
A version of this article appeared in the June 11, 2008 edition of Education Week as Pay More to Those Who Teach 9th Graders