Earning One’s Stripes As a Teacher

Is it passe to expect new teacher’s today to earn their stripes before they receive their preferred course assignments?  Am I small-minded for expecting a new, probationary teacher to do so before they are rewarded with choice course assignments? In my specific situation, are there other factors behind how I feel about this matter?

My quick answers:  I do not think so; perhaps; and, yes, in that order.

First, some background.

As some of my readers may know, I am a second-career mathematics teacher approaching the end of my fourth year.

In my first year, I taught three “preps:” algebra 1 (three sections), AP Calculus AB (one section), and a non-AP calculus course (one section); there is a huge back-story regarding the non-AP calculus course.

In my second year, I had three preps once again: algebra intervention (one section), algebra 1 (two sections), and AP Calculus AB (two sections).

In my third year, I had two preps to begin the year: algebra 1 (three sections) and AP Calculus AB (two sections); however, halfway I split each of my algebra 1 sections into two sections, one algebra 1 (see results) and the other algebra intervention (see results), which gave me three preps, and eight sections total.

This year, I have two preps: honors precalculus (three sections) and AP Calculus AB (two sections).

I end each year nearly fully depleted, as I put my heart and soul and every ounce of energy I possess into teaching; it drains me.

In these past four years, I believe I earned my stripes.  And then some.

A first year teacher may have earned a single stripe.  I earned one, maybe two my first year, but nowhere near enough to claim the right to teach a course of my preference.  Heck, for that matter, I do not think I was even asked what I wanted to teach…

Now, a first year teacher, still probationary for another year wishes to teach higher level courses: accelerated algebra 2 and precalculus, without having earned their stripes, much less permanent status.  As someone who spent most of his early life in and around the military, I view institutions as having rank structures, even education: witness assistant professor, associate professor, and professor in higher education.  While high school does not distinguish between their faculty in such a fashion, they do have the probationary versus permanent bifurcation.  And, the traditionalist in me cries out for the probationary person to hold their official wishes in abeyance, until they cross the threshold into permanent status, having earned their stripes.

Adding insult to injury, this specific individual ended up being selected by the API over me to teach the summer course I taught last year.  What the API does not know is his ruse of an interview process fell apart after I learned from the new teacher that the API, in essence, anointed the new teacher a priori.  Oh, well.  As I mentioned in a recent post, the API views me with disdain, as I rocked the boat while improving our department’s instruction for honors precalculus to a level where my AP Calculus AB students next year will struggle less than my prior four year’s cohorts; of this, I am sure.  However, it was too high of a price to pay for the API, so I am on his naughty list.

I guess that is the price to pay when you earn your stripes.  It is a shame, however, that someone who improves the outcomes for students, but ruffled a few feathers doing so, is held in such low regard.  I need to find a “how to be politically correct” supplement on the vitamin shelves. Or, stop whining and embrace the suck as many of my classmates needed to do for their time serving our country overseas.

About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Independent consultant and junior college adjunct instructor. Former secondary math teacher who taught math intervention, algebra 1, geometry, accelerated algebra 2, precalculus, honors precalculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Statistics. Prior to teaching, I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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2 Responses to Earning One’s Stripes As a Teacher

  1. Dave your senior ( experience and age only) says:

    many incompetent and self serving administrators – maybe a training and administrative route would be most effective for you as you have excellent ideas and leadership skills.


    • I do not believe I could serve as an admin. The entire system is antiquated and wired to promote “yes” men and those who ignore reality saying trite platitudes which feel good but have no validity, applicability, or chance of success. Sad but true.


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