Calling All Good Teachers
Resignation Incentive. That's what my district and many others across the country are calling their latest attempts to save money at the expense of good effective teaching and learning. They want anyone who has been teaching long enough to be really good at it to quit and make room for some cheaper first year teachers to take their places. Now, do not get me wrong, I LOVE first year teachers. I was one. I understand them and their job.
This program is not just a RETIREMENT incentive which does have some great advantages. Those advantages include allowing teachers who want to retire, but cannot afford it to retire with dignity. It prevents some of the bad teaching that happens when an old teacher who no longer relates to the students is forced to keep working to hit the magic number of years plus experience that unlocks retirement. I have seen some of those people spend the last few years doing some real damage to students. This is an unfortunate situation, but who is to blame? The teacher cannot retire until she is able to collect her retirement income. Quitting before that would leave some of them homeless and destitute. Most students do not care at all that the old teachers are trapped into working past their prime. They just gang up on them like a bunch of piranhas, bragging about the shenanigans they pulled in the classroom behind the teacher's back. Sometimes they even post videos to the internet!
Don't Let the Door Hit Ya!
This is an incentive to RESIGN. Just go away! You are free to look for a job someplace else, but you may not work for our district for one year, with the exception of being a substitute teacher. That is okay because they need good subs, and subs get very little compensation compared to full-time teachers and no benefits. This is the how they will calculate our incentive amount.
District shall pay Employee a resignation incentive payment in accordance with the following sliding scale:
1 - 5 years of employment = 8% of current annual salary;
6- 10 years of employment = 12% of current annual salary;
11-15 years of employment = 15% of current annual salary;
16-20 years of employment = 18% of current annual salary;
21-25 years of employment = 20% of current annual salary;
26-30 years of employment = 22% of current annual salary;
30+ years of employment = 25% of current annual salary
So what this boils down to is first year teachers can get a couple of thousand dollars to quit. The first year is the most difficult. It is the year you learn how to juggle. It is a very frustrating year, but when you return for your second year, the difference is remarkable. You have had an opportunity to make some mistakes, figure out what works and what doesn't. You have had time to reflect and adjust mentally and academically. The second year you are more confident, more relaxed, more willing to move on to the third year. The third year is when you really start to rock! At year five, you are a valuable addition to the faculty.
Teachers at Their Peaks
The period of time between years six and 20 is when the magic happens. This is when teachers reach their peaks. When they are able to not only juggle, but to dance and smile while they are passing their content and life lessons on to the next generation. They join decision-making committees, advocate for their students, they seek each day an opportunity to change a life for the better. It is absolutely enthralling to experience this in action.
But my district wants to pay master teachers a few thousand dollars to leave, so they can fill the spot with a first year teacher who is in survival mode. The new teacher needs help getting and keeping her balls in the air. Teaching is not common knowledge. It cannot be taught in college. This important help ideally comes from generous master teachers who share their expertise. These are the people who encourage the overwhelmed newcomer when they break down crying and are convinced by November that they have chosen the wrong career.
When Back to School Stops Being a Good Idea
Beyond the 20-year mark, things are different for different people. Being a good teacher hi-jacks your whole body, mind, and spirit. And this gets tiring. Summertime is healing and reinvigorating. Every year teachers cheerfully come back for more until they reach a point where they start to return in August without the expected renewed sense of purpose. This happens at different times for different people. When this starts happening, this is the ideal time for people to leave the profession. That would keep only strong and mentally healthy teachers in the classroom. But that is not always what happens. Some people stay too long at the party because they have to. And offering them a few thousand dollars to quit will not help them leave. It only makes them bitter because they really wish they could take the money and run.
A Lifetime of Experience and Devotion
And then, there is a group of people who are awe-inspiring. These are the ones who could leave if they wanted to, but they STILL LOVE IT every single day for DECADES! The incentive will not affect their decision to stay. They are the superhero level master teachers who are so very important to their peers, bosses, and most importantly the students. But my district, along with many other districts across the country, are trying to force these education gurus to retire because they have been teaching 30 years and make about $60,000 per year. This reminds me of the old saying that husbands used to say to their wives, "When you turn 40, I'm trading you in for two 20-year-olds." Except this is much worse, because it is not a joke. It's the future of our education culture. It's our children who will suffer. And when our children suffer, our whole nation suffers.