Tag Archives: veteran teachers

Merit Pay and the Veteran Teacher

One of the most offensive opinions I am confronting as I research other blogging sites regarding merit pay for teachers is the accusation, sometimes subtle and sometimes very direct, that veteran teachers do not deserve their higher salary as they just don’t work as energetically as younger teachers do following the same lesson plans year after year. I take huge exception to these statements as I am a veteran teacher. I feel compelled to “talk turkey” about veteran teachers and what we have to offer our school systems.

We have years of invaluable experience (in the business world this is a coveted thing). We have experimented with a variety of teaching techniques and fine-tuned our styles over the years. We have taken a variety of graduate classes in education usually earning master degrees. We have attended a wide range of professional development workshops and incorporated many of these concepts into our classroom. We have served on a multitude of committees in our schools, been a part of evaluating new curriculum for our classrooms, been mentor teachers, helped develop standards based report cards and short cycled assessments, and received countless letters of thanks from our parents and students. We have knowledge that we love to share with anyone who is interested, but we are just as willing to listen to the ideas of younger teachers and try them out in our classrooms. Good veteran teachers understand that teaching is not a stagnant thing, and are just as willing to learn as to teach.

Somehow people, and often this includes other teachers, have come to believe that when you reach a certain pinnacle in your educational career, you become complacent and unwilling to make changes. I categorically deny this, and furthermore state again that there is no age requirement for this mind set. I have seen teachers from all age groups and years of experience who are very willing to coast along doing the bare minimum. But the highly charged issue of merit pay breeds in some people this kind of divisive thinking. It is one of the dangers I see in the adoption of merit pay, and I would take issue with anyone trying to tell me that the job I do and the years I have put in do not qualify me for the salary I have earned as a result of dedication and hard work.

First in a Series: The Merit Pay Conundrum

After spending quite some time reading a variety of articles both for and against the issue of merit pay for teachers, I feel, as all teachers should, the need to weigh-in on this important issue. Especially as President Barack Obama plugged teacher bonuses based on student achievement in the first education policy speech of his presidency.

We all know that in education, as in any profession, there are employees who produce average work with average to little success, and are unmotivated to do much more. A common fallacy in the teaching profession is that it is predominately the veteran teachers who fit this scenario as they have become burned out and are simply waiting to retire. While I do not deny that I have seen my fair share of this condition, I must also adamantly state that this attitude has no age requirement. I have seen the same attitude in teachers fresh out of college, and some who have a few years under their belt. In teaching, as in any profession, our labor force ranges from the dedicated, hard-working, and tireless to the “I’ll-do-the-bare-minimum”, and various stages in between. The difference between the business and education world is that our teachers’ unions, which protect us in a multitude of important ways making our work places fairer and safer places to work, also do our profession the disservice of fighting to protect teachers, both young and old, who legitimately deserve to be let go. In the business world, job retention is directly related to job performance. If our unions did not work so diligently to protect teachers whose performance necessitated their being weeded out, does it not stand to reason that we would be left with a higher caliber of teachers who, by that very definition, are all deserving of merit pay?

I propose that unions should establish strict and multi-layered guidelines for teacher dismissal and should ensure that these guidelines are followed to the letter. But when thorough documentation proves a teacher’s unwillingness or inability to take the necessary steps to improve their teaching skills after a methodical, multifaceted evaluation process established by the union, it becomes counterproductive and hurts a school system when its union fights for that teacher. Allowing the administration to release these teachers from their contract would ultimately create a higher caliber school system which encourages respect from the community and makes it far more likely for these community members to support levies that pay all teachers in these schools the salary they deserve.