To the Editor:
Regarding “Rookie Teachers, Stressed Students Confront Realities of New Orleans’ Schools After Storm” (March 14, 2007):
The tragedy of John McDonogh Senior High School and other New Orleans schools was directly facilitated by the Recovery School District’s shortsighted greed in not retaining or at least giving first priority for reinstatement to New Orleans’ own career educators displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Instead of being offered our jobs back, we were laid off and told to get in line with new graduates and teachers displaced by other districts, such as St. Bernard and Jefferson parishes, if we wanted positions. It was as though the district was blaming the teachers for a corrupt, mismanaged system that could not even compute the payroll.
An experienced teacher can teach an alligator in a refrigerator box if that is his or her job. A rookie has been taught how to teach, but has not yet learned to teach. Teaching is a skill rooted in college degrees in education and nurtured by experience. From my perspective, it usually takes from three to five years to know your job.
The recovery district demonstrated its disrespect for the children of New Orleans when it went on the cheap, hiring inexpensive novice teachers. They cost much less than career educators, and most will probably leave for greener pastures before you can say “tenure.” But if you don’t go for quality from the start, you pay for it in repairs later. Now, instead of putting its money into teachers who can control with “the look,” the district is paying for extra security guards and police officers to manage stressed-out, traumatized teenagers being taught by teachers who are functioning without the guidance they need to learn their job. May God help this generation.
A version of this article appeared in the April 25, 2007 edition of Education Week as Rookie Teachers vs. Veterans, Post-Katrina