Is there an experience vacuum being created in our schools?
A recent article popped up on the Guardian’s popular Secret Teacher section saying that “the exodus of older teachers is draining schools of expertise.”
It’s worth making the distinction here between experience and expertise.
Teachers with more years under their belts have more teaching experience but not necessarily more expertise.
Secret Teacher says,
The impact of replacing older, experienced teachers with younger, inexperienced individuals is difficult to measure. But it’s clear that students, younger teachers and the wider profession will be affected.
Not always. Some older teachers will leave the profession and the quality of teaching will not suffer. The quality of teachers coming into the profession isn’t an age thing but a personality and background thing. Some young teachers are brilliant at what they do and can easily upstage their more experienced colleagues – not in a nasty way but in a completely “born to teach” way.
Some experienced teachers clearly have something special and they appear to their colleagues to be almost invincible. They seem able to deal with any situation, teach anything, ‘do’ an assembly with no notice and take everything in their stride.
But there are some experienced teachers who haven’t moved with the times and are locked in their favourite decade and cling to a golden age of teaching as they see it. They aren’t always the best role models for younger teachers and can actually be the very people not to learn from.
Secret Teacher isn’t convinced and says, “Without their guidance, confidence and expertise, we’ve got a knowledge gap about what works in teaching – and that’s a problem.”
This comment clearly applies to some teachers but we mustn’t overlook the input, contributions and feedback of staff who haven’t flown around the world 60 times. The expertise and experience is there in abundance and we don’t have to always look at the top of the food chain for advice.
Older or more experienced teachers are not Kung Fu masters – some will admit they still feel out of their depth when it comes to doing some aspects of the job and that’s a good thing – that means they have to ask those with different experiences and different expertise what to do.
The real issue is not losing more experienced staff but the exodus of less experienced staff who stay in the job for just a few years.