Will “newer” always be seen as “better,” despite the evidence?

I recently received an email from a first-year sixth grade teacher asking about my classroom management system. I’ve taught for 37 years, making me a veteran teacher by any reckoning.

Flattered of course, I revealed the nitty-gritty of my ticket system. Long and short of it — when kids are good they get tickets. When negative behaviors transpire, tickets are taken away.

Tickets are used for class auctions or to buy lunch with the teacher.

Initially, I was pleased, but upon reflection, saddened when I realized no one has asked me about anything regarding teaching for years. Newer teachers usually mentor student teachers, even though it takes five to seven years to firm up a solid teaching base.

The education reform movement has stifled veteran teachers, pooh-poohing their knowledge and wealth of experience. A false association has been put in place: Because new teachers (many of whom quit within their first five years) are adept at computer use, they are seen as harbingers of the latest in fix-it-all education. Who better to implement the new stuff than flexible newbies indebted to the principal for employment?

By comparison, veteran teachers have seen a near countless number of educational fixes. And we survived them. Well, some of us did.

Normally, what happens on a political level is a new administrative junta comes in and flushes all previous magic systems replacing them with a new magic system. The new systems are lobbied and echo-chambered by shills for publishing and these days testing companies (often one and the same). Locally, this plays out with districts trying to comply with fads, trends, and laws they did not make.

Veteran teachers are bailing in record numbers because of the destruction of the public school system. We are dying from a thousand cuts. And the saddest thing? The newer teachers don’t know what’s being done.

Tickets work and veteran teachers have more than a few worthy and effective educational tricks up their sleeves that deserve appreciation. If there were a super duper silver teaching bullet, Socrates, Euclid, and Pythagoras would have used it.

Little secret…there ain’t no magic silver bullet. But some things work for some of us. Just ask any veteran teacher.

The solutions that we’ve seen 

Math: Math Their Way, Math Land, Mathematics Unlimited, California Math, Excel Math, Math Expressions, Dot Math, Math Manipulatives, New Math, Common Core Math, and more.

Reading: Campanitas de Oro (Spanish whole language), Impressions (English whole language), MacCracken Whole Language, SRA-Reading Lions, Open Court, Phonics, Dibels, Fluency testing, Daily 5, Accelerated Reader, Scholastic News, Listening Centers, Pearson Language Arts (Common Core), Whole Language, Phonetic learning, High Point, Read Naturally, School Thematic Approach, HLT, and more.

The How of Teaching: Self-contained classes, blended (switching classes), team teaching, combination classes, combination bilingual classes, after school programs, learning centers, projects, leveled ELA, immersion cooperative groups, pair-share, No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top, Common Core, Goals and Standards, behavior modification plans, and more.

— By Paul Karrer, member of the North Monterey County Federation of Teachers. Find him online here