John Spencer wrote an interesting post entitled, “Do we value experience?“ (https://stemreadings.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/do-we-value-experience/), that struck a bit of a chord. He wrote his thoughts of the perception of older staff by others:
Veterans on staff are viewed as curmudgeonly. If they criticize the system, they’re being cynical (as opposed to a young teacher, who is simply being “young and idealistic”). People make huge assumptions about them. They will be slow to adopt new strategies. They will be reluctant to new technology (in many cases they were the pioneers in educational technology, knowing computers on a deeper level than my generation).
First of all, I believe the title may be a bit misleading compared to the content. Many educators do value experience, but experience is something that comes from people at different points in their career; it is not only about age. I often speak to administrators, and often I am younger than most of them and I am hoping they are valuing my experiences that I am sharing, as I value theirs. We have done different things and we can learn from each other.
Why do so many people go on Twitter? Because of the very reason that they value experience. They look at what others are doing, their experiences, and tap into them. There are many educators out there that have more years of experience than I do, and if they are willing to share, I am willing to learn.
Does this really have to do with age?
Does everyone think like this? Absolutely not. But many educators are excited about connecting and learning from others and you are seeing more tap into the wisdom of others every day. John Spencer, on Twitter, brought up the notion that many teachers in their 50′s have been overlooked for opportunities to become principals because they were viewed as “too old” (which is much too hard to determine unless you were doing the interview), where I have been told outright that I was too young for a specific job. Not that I didn’t have enough knowledge and experience, but that I was too young. Ageism can happen on both sides of the spectrum, and as Josh Stumpenhorst said, it depends on the perspective of the person hiring. I want the best person for the job. I could care less whether you are 25 or 65. Rich Cantrell, a retired principal in his 70′s, still connects and shares, and anytime he shares his wisdom with me, I listen. He stays relevant because he choose to continue learning.
I can only speak for myself, but what I value is the strengths that different people bring to the table. I value someone that is willing to grow and learn. I value someone who has a critical eye and asks tough questions. I value someone who is passionate about teaching and learning. What I know is, that once you are done learning, you will slowly become ineffective as a teacher. I have seen this trait in new and old teachers.
So to answer John’s question from the title of his post..I do value experience. I appreciate what he is saying in his post, and believe that our long serving teachers bring a lot of knowledge that we have to appreciate, listen to, and think about it in our work every day with kids. I just believe that “experience” comes in many forms and being a learner myself, I am going to tap into it any way that I can.