Gasp, a History teacher teaching Math!

Recently I read this article in the Vancouver Sun. The author, Janet Steffenhagen is quoting George Abbott:

Teacher Bargaining and the Strength of Seniority

During an interview on CKNW, he suggested that the weight given seniority is such that a social studies teacher could win a math posting simply because of his/her years on the job. That needs to change, he said, adding: “It is so commonsensical I don’t understand the fervent objection to this as somehow contract stripping.”

I had a few thoughts on this.

First of all, my first job was as the high school teacher of a very small rural school. My training is History/English. Of course, I also had to teach everything else, including math.

Yes, I had a lot of training to do. I spent long, long hours re-learning math, finding art lessons, reading about science. I dug through book rooms, the District Resource Centre, classrooms of teachers from neighbouring towns. This was before the  internet had really taken off- not that we had internet access.  We didn’t even have phone access.

I signed up for the job, and I was willing to do the work. It was not conceivable that a specialist would be hired in each subject for the 18 students I had the honour of working with.

After that, I spent four years in an alternate setting, again, teaching all subjects. I have taught ESL to adults. I have taught reading comprehension for students who were no where near high school reading level, even though I am a high school teacher without that special training. I taught art to a group of students who had burnt bridges in every other conceivable space in the school. I have taught life skills. I have taught mainstream.

I coached basketball, even though I had never played it.

I have re-taught myself how to teach my own subjects. I have learned a lot of technology over the years. I have learned and learned, and will keep learning.

I have taken years of workshops, I have accessed information, I have collaborated with other professionals, and I have gotten my Master’s Degree. I taught a college-level course in the principles of instruction.

Up here in the rural areas, we get a lot of opportunities and challenges.

I really do understand that a teacher with a great depth of understanding in her subject area, and years of experience with the classroom and principles of instruction, is optimal.

However, if I decided to switch from the humanities to math, I could do it, at the junior level. I would have to do the long, long hours, the collaborating and the learning because that would be my responsibility to my students. Of course, I am already doing that in the subjects I currently teach.

I would be years ahead of a newly minted math teacher in terms of classroom management and curriculum implementation.

I am not suggesting that I could teach Calculus or other senior secondary courses outside my certification without retraining at the post-secondary level or serious mentorship. Sometimes that happens in rural areas, because that’s how we have to do it.

I guess this is me fervently objecting with the assertion in the quote above. In most circumstances, my years of experience should count over that of a recently graduated math teacher.

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