New teachers are excited, often nervous, and full of great ideas. Experienced teachers have a handle on classroom management, and use tried-and-true methods for bringing the best out in their students. In some ways, excitement and passion are more important than years of experience. When it comes to teaching, however, experience can make a huge difference in students’ lives, helping them to grow and develop during a crucial period of their lives. But why? Aren’t good teachers simply good teachers? Not necessarily. While a novice can still be an effective teacher, there’s often just no substitute for experience.
Effectiveness Increases Year After Year
Some feel that the longer a teacher is in the classroom, the more improvement decreases with each passing year. However, recent research shows that this just isn’t true. Researchers at Brown University found in one of their large studies that teachers averaged a boost of 40% on student test scores between their 10th and 30th year on the job. While novice teachers do make the greatest gains in their first few years of teaching, research shows that teachers are able to have positive impacts on students long past their early years.
Increasing students’ achievement doesn’t just help them learn and set them up for future success, it also helps to boost their confidence and engagement. Teachers are the most important school-controlled factor in student achievement, and the simple truth is that some teachers are far more effective than others. While experience isn’t the only factor in this equation, it is an important part of improving student achievement.
Experienced Teachers are Role Models
Thinking back on your own teachers, one or two probably stands out in your mind as having a profound and positive impact on you. Teachers are role models for their students, and an inspirational teacher can make a big difference on student growth and development.
Today, students have a wide range of challenges to contend with: identity, expectations for academic achievement, their home environment, and navigating relationships with their peers. New problems like cyberbullying put students at risk for depression and self-harm – students who are cyberbullied are 2 to 9 times more likely to contemplate suicide than their peers. Students that are struggling in their personal and academic lives can turn to a trusted teacher and get help—and an experienced teacher is well-equipped to help them get through their challenges and rise above them. Through observation and firsthand experience, veteran teachers are often more perceptive when it comes to spotting students who are struggling and know the best methods for reaching individual students so they can get the help they need.
Encouraging Good Habits
Aside from test scores, experienced teachers are skilled at helping students cultivate good habits. Evidence from North Carolina middle schools shows that experienced teachers can reduce absences in the classroom, and even promote good habits outside the classroom. These experienced teachers are more effective at getting students to read for fun at home, a habit that is vitally important, but decreasing rapidly: a Scholastic survey revealed that only 51% of students enjoy reading books for fun, a decline from 60% in 2010.
Getting the Necessary Experience
Of course, the problem with becoming experienced is that it takes time. Teachers need to be given the tools and time they need to grow and develop as educators, but they also need to be as prepared as possible before taking on their own classrooms. Getting as much student teaching in as possible is a good start – a mentor can monitor and help course-correct before the novice teacher has his or her own classroom. Taking teacher education a step further with a Master’s in Education is also helpful for getting the initial experience needed to help students achieve.
All of this shows how important it is to ensure that good teachers stay in their positions long term. However, teacher retention has been poor. This is especially true among organizations such as Teach for America or within special education programs where 82% of teachers say there is a shortage of professionals to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Teacher turnover is hard on schools and students, and many teachers don’t stay in the profession long enough to develop the experience necessary to enrich their students’ lives long-term. The good news? Changing schools doesn’t change the effectiveness of teachers, so wherever they are, experienced teachers can be a positive influence.
So what can be done to encourage teachers to stay in the field for 10, 20, 30+ years? Fair salaries are a start, but that’s not enough. Teachers need to be given long-term support and development opportunities. They need the resources to help students succeed, and a positive and fair working environment. They need what we all need – respect, trust, and autonomy – and they’ll return these in kind to their students.
Photo is pixabay creative commons
Guest Author Bio
Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life, including her position as a yoga instructor and raising her two children. When she’s not watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.