The times are always changing

The issue: How has teaching changed in the last 25 years?

The date: On or about April 15, 2009

The setting: Three sagacious teaching veterans, representing nearly 80 years of teaching experience, are poised at their keyboards for a real-time interview orchestrated by some cutting-edge Web 2.0 software. No problem. Defying the digital immigrant stereotype, each weathered professional is an experienced blogger and cyber-networking enthusiast.

The interviewer: Teacher Magazine editor Anthony Rebora.

The participants: Anthony Cody (Oakland CA), Nancy Flanagan (Hartland MI) and Susan Graham (Winchester VA) — all National Board Certified Teachers and members of the Teacher Leaders Network.

The first question: The recent MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, based on a comparison to past surveys, found that teacher satisfaction has increased markedly over the past 25 years. Has this been your impression? What do you think accounts for the change?

Here’s a snippet from each teacher’s response:

Flanagan: Teachers have more and better guidelines for teaching now—the standards movement and the spotlight on state curriculum benchmarks have made what to teach clearer… In a small town…(w)e had a stable teaching force, good materials, and were able to hire selectively… Most teachers I know are happier—the job feels more structured, but in a good way.

Cody: I honestly found myself a bit mystified by that result. Perhaps that is because I am working in an urban district, where the survey found consistently less satisfaction and optimism. In my district we have a pretty high turnover rate, about 20 percent a year, and No Child Left Behind has made a lot of teachers feel huge pressure to do test prep.

Graham: In my own situation I sometimes hear veteran teachers longing for “the good old days” when they felt they had stronger connections to the community (before we) moved from a small rural/suburban to a metroplex suburban system over the last 15 years… (I)t does surprise me that teachers feel better. Could it be that while we are expected to have high expectations for student performance, we might have lower expectations for our own work place satisfaction?

Read their complete answers and their responses to other key questions inspired by the recently released 25th anniversary Survey of the American Teacher, at this Teacher Magazine webpage. You can join the conversation by contributing to the Comments section, which already features some meaty replies by other teaching veterans.

Image: cover of Time Magazine, October 10, 1983

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