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.