Career Path Dilemmas

Career Path Dilemmas

Traditionally, the career path set for most teachers has been flat. If a teacher wanted to move ahead professionally, he or she generally had to leave the classroom.

In recent years, however, that paradigm has come into question, in part due to evolving teacher expectations and pressures on school systems to leverage "human capital." At various points around the country, new "hybrid" roles have been developed for master teachers, teacher-coaches, or teacher leaders. In these roles, teachers may spend part of the day in their own classroom and the remaining time observing other teachers, analyzing student data, leading professional learning communities, or performing other leadership tasks. Separate tracks for short-term teachers and "career" educators have also been considered.

As a practicing teacher, are you satisfied with the career-advancement opportunities currently available to you? In your view, how could teacher career paths and school-staffing arrangements be transformed to improve learning in the 21st century and to better accommodate the talents and ambitions of educators?

Follow-Up: Time for a Teaching Profession

I must take issue with one of the comments on this Roundtable and clarify some important reasons for multiple career pathways for teachers. On Noah Patel's entry, RHE responded: The problem with career paths for teachers is that the most important job in the system is and always will be the classroom teacher. It is unique in that the entry level position has the same responsibility in year 1 and in year 30. This is not true for most other fields. That is why a salary schedule for a teacher will always be relatively flat. The classroom being at the ...


Follow-Up: Professionally Developing Mentors

Noah Patel In my previous blog, I discussed the importance of creating non-traditional career pathways for teachers by way of a Master Teacher credential earned through demonstrated classroom success. Several colleagues on this blog have joined me in advocating for mentoring as one rung on the career ladder that we hope to strengthen. After some more reflection on this topic, I am positive that meaningful professional development will be the key in taking these additional career opportunities, especially mentoring, to scale nationwide. In the early-stage of my career, it was an expectation at my school that teachers would lead content-specific ...


Follow-Up: Empowering Teacher Leadership

Lori Nazareno I spent the last two evenings watching the film Mitchell 20. It begins as a story about 20 teachers at a high-needs school in Arizona who are working to improve their teaching through the National Board Certification process. When an unexpected series of district-mandated events occurs, the story quickly changes, offering a much more broad statement about teachers and education. One of the film's resounding messages is that teachers have little control over their own profession and even less say-so in the policies that they are charged with carrying out each day. Imagine my surprise to find that ...


Follow-Up: A Day in the Life of a Teacherpreneur

Noah Zeichner It is not always easy explaining to my friends, colleagues, and even family what exactly my hybrid role looks like. I usually say that I teach in the mornings and do "policy-related work" in the afternoons. I currently teach three different classes, one of which meets after school and during study hall periods. My afternoons are often filled with off-campus meetings, writing emails (and blog posts), reviewing research, and making phone calls. I typically stay at school at least two full days each week, working in the library in the afternoons before I either teach or attend meetings ...


Follow-Up: Working in a Hybrid Role: What Does It Take?

Carrie Kamm In my previous post I wrote about a teacher I work with, Jennifer Magiera, who spends part of her day as a 4th/5th grade math teacher and the other part providing STEM coaching to teachers in our school and other teachers in the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) network. If hybrid roles for teachers are to become the norm rather than an exception or rarity, we need to study those who are doing this work to learn from their experiences and identify those teachers in our schools who might be good candidates. That candidate may in ...


Follow-Up: Rethinking Tenure and Teacher Careers

David Orphal The myth about tenure is that once a teacher has worked for two or three years of probationary service, he has a job for life, and barring burning down the school or beating random children, there is no way of getting rid of that teacher no matter how lackluster or sub-par he becomes. First of all, this is simply untrue. Currently, in California, a teacher serves two years of probationary status, during which time a school can choose not to renew his contract without having to state a reason. Simply not being a "good fit" is cause enough ...


Follow-Up: Training the Next Generation of Teachers.

David Orphal Teach For America and New Teaching Project candidates don't get enough training. They make up for receiving only a 5-week crash course on lesson planning and assessment with boat loads of energy and enthusiasm. Many TFA'ers join with the express purpose of teaching for only two years and then moving on to more lucrative careers. More still find their training has not fully prepared them for under-supportive and hovering parents, truant and transient students, and students' non-academic needs. Additionally, most TFA'ers and NTP'ers are white, middle-class college grads who have a difficult time relating to their non-white, working-class ...


An Entryway to Career Growth for Teachers

Noah Patel In September of 2010 at NBC's Education Nation Summit, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that he wanted to "professionalize the profession" and simultaneously "attract and retain excellent teachers." As a seventh year teacher in the second stage of my career, I have been frustrated by the flat career trajectory that I have experienced. I have worked very hard to master the craft of teaching, but I wonder what will sustain me over the next 30 years? I am passionate about teaching in my middle school math classroom, and have no desire to leave. However, the options that ...


Trying (and Failing) to be Colossus

David Orphal Last year, I was out of the classroom. I was a "teacher on special assignment," coordinating a grant to redesign our school into multiple smaller learning communities. The work was wonderful! It was challenging! I could go to the bathroom whenever I wanted, instead of having to wait for the bell! I was in heaven... except... I missed my kids. I missed planning activities that would help them learn. I missed engaging them in interesting conversations. I missed seeing their eyes light up when they "got it!" In short, I missed teaching. This year, I'm back in the ...


Making Room for Teacher Leaders

Renee Moore The idea of hybrid roles for teachers is not all that new. Some of the happiest moments of my teaching life were spent at Broad Street High School in Shelby, Miss., where some courageous administrators attempted to set up teacher-leader roles within the district. I say attempted because neither my employers nor I were sure what that meant when we first started in 1998. Initially, the administration wanted to simply anoint certain persons to be the Lead Teachers, but later I convinced them to redesign it into a teacher leadership program selected by our peers throughout the district. ...


A New Kind of Hybrid Role: Teacherpreneur

Noah ZeichnerDuring my first seven years of teaching I found many opportunities for leadership in my school. I chaired a department, led a family engagement team, and served as our school's educational technologist. Of course, I taught full time too, often preparing for three different classes each day. But I didn't mind. I loved the work. Looking back, I didn't take on these extracurricular responsibilities with career advancement necessarily in mind. I had no intention of leaving the classroom anytime soon. I did the extra work because I enjoyed having a role in determining the direction of my school. In ...


Teachers Must Lead!

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Lori Nazareno
My career-advancement opportunities have come in spite of the system, not because of it. I have had the opportunity to push school leaders and districts to think differently about how they utilize talent. Not only do I have the good fortune to work in a teacher leadership role, ...

Urban Teacher Residencies: A Space for Hybrid Roles for Teachers

Carrie Kamm Urban teacher residencies are reshaping teacher preparation in cities across the country. They are also providing new professional opportunities for teachers. The Academy for Urban School Leadership's (AUSL) Chicago Teacher Residency program is providing opportunities for teachers to have an impact on teacher preparation while at the same time allowing them to continue teaching in the classroom. As a former mentor teacher with AUSL I have professionally benefited from the opportunity to support teachers new to the profession, while at the same time furthering developing my skills as a classroom teacher. In my current role as a Mentor-Resident ...


The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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