To the Editor:
Thanks for running Arthur E. Levine and David Haselkorn’s Commentary about teacher retention and recruitment (“Teaching at the Precipice,” Nov. 5, 2008). I’m interested in the topic on two fronts: I have two kids who will hit high school just as the baby-boomer teachers retire en masse, and I’m one of the middle-aged career-changers with a technical background, advanced degrees, and private-sector experience whom your authors would like to see in the classroom. (Currently I teach high school physics in Massachusetts on a preliminary license; I entered the field as a long-term substitute in several high and middle schools, both public and private.)
One suggestion I would like to make is that first-year teachers should be given less than full teaching loads, with one prep period (ideally) and relief from nonteaching duties. This would enable them to build new curriculum; develop relationships with the other professionals on campus, such as special education liaisons, information technology staff members, and librarians; and observe senior colleagues at work in their classrooms. With a full load of classes and nonteaching duties as well as the need to make everything up for the very first time, new teachers are hard-pressed to build relationships and learn all they might from mentors and peers.
Yes, this idea would cost money, but, as the authors note, the costs may be more than made up by lower turnover and greater teacher effectiveness.
A version of this article appeared in the November 19, 2008 edition of Education Week as To Aid Teacher Retention, Lighten Novices’ Burden