January 7, 2012

Effective Use of Experienced Teachers' Time

Patrick Laverty

Today's Providence Journal had an interesting story about Lillian Turnipseed, a Providence teacher coach. She is a teacher with 38 years of classroom experience, so it would be natural to believe that she would be a great candidate to tutor new teachers.

She is one of Rhode Island’s 17 “induction coaches” responsible for helping the state’s 270 new teachers improve during their critical first year.
I've had discussions with others who believe that this is a very good an efficient use of older and experienced staff. I agree that it seems to be a smart use of these valuable employees. Rather than having a teacher burned out after 35 years in a classroom or a 50 year old fireman carrying people out of buildings or a 55 year old police officer chasing down criminals on foot, use their wealth of knowledge to the benefit of the group.

With a teacher, my thought is you will have one of three situations. Either the teacher will be like Mrs. Turnipseed and be a great fit for tutoring the new and upcoming teachers or still be willing to be in the classroom and be effectively teaching into their 60s or they'll be a burned out and ineffective teacher who should be allowed to leave or retire when they want. However, I don't see it as a valid excuse to start collecting a pension after 20 or 25 years in the classroom because we simply have "burned out teachers." Change it up and find new and exciting challenges for them. If they don't want to do either one, that's ok, no one is going to force them to stay, but that's no reason to start the pension payments either.

With police and fire, a similar experience could be had. I agree with those who ask if I want a 50 year old firefighter trying to carry me out of a burning building and down a ladder after the job had taken its toll on their body for 25 or more years. No, I don't want that. But at the same time, I see no reason for that firefighter to retire yet. Why can't that person do a part of the job that doesn't require carrying one out of burning buildings, like conducting fire alarm inspections? Traveling to schools and offering fire safety tips to children? Training the younger firefighters entering the job. Even cleaning and maintaining the equipment. Again, no one is going to force these people to stay on the job, but if they do want to keep collecting a paycheck, find tasks they are capable of doing that help efficiency and can properly use their years of expertise and knowledge.

Mrs. Turnipseed is an excellent example for all, as she could have retired many years ago, but still wants to help others and has found a way to use her strengths and experience to benefit Providence.

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In the real world (outside RI) cops and firemen have 55 year old minimum retirement ages-and no one bats an eye about it.
Even bankrupt, progressive infested California:

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The CHP offers good retirement income for some.

Decades of driving the freeways of California enforcing the law will get you more than satisfaction. The California Highway Patrol, or CHP, has a retirement program that allows you to retire at a comparatively young age with good benefits. The age requirement is changing, though, because of California's budget problems.
Calculating Retirement Income

California Highway Patrol officers operate under a retirement plan that rewards them for their years of service coupled with their advancement through the ranks. Current CHP officers can retire at age 50 with annual benefits calculated as 3 percent of their three highest-paying years' average salaries, multiplied by their years of service, up to 90 percent of the average of their three highest-paying years. For example, an officer who served for 30 years with an average pay of $75,000 for the highest three years would take 3 percent of $75,000, or $2,250, and multiply it by 30 for an annual retirement benefit of $67,500.
New Recruits Have Different Rules

According to the Los Angeles Times, California's current budget problems generated an agreement between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the CHP union that raised the retirement age for new recruits to 55. The CHP website says it has had so many job seekers that it's not hiring in the foreseeable future.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at January 7, 2012 3:19 PM

I had a very brief experience with teaching. It was a madhouse. The teacher's hid my coffee cup int he teacher's room, another let the air out of my tires because I took her parking space. They would ask me to "get Johnny" in my class, because they didn't have time to "get'em" in her class. That was the last straw.

It seems to me that most police forces have a retirement age of 50. There are always exceptions. You may recall the Capitol Policeman(DC)shot, 8-10 years ago. He was hired 2 years past the retirement age. His brother-in-law was a congressman. Coincidence?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at January 7, 2012 4:52 PM

Any reasonable person would have to agree with the premise of this post, which is that instead of being incentivized to retire at some absurdly young age, public employees should be moved to positions where they are most useful and happiest.

But what is this "burnout" nonsense we keep hearing from public unions? Like people in the private sector don't get physically or mentally tired of their jobs? Like people don't get burned out landscaping or cooking food or doing retail for 30 years? Go to school at night (not on the public dime) and retrain to get a new job if you don't like your current one. Or consult. Or do what most people do and suck it up. You aren't disabled because your back hurts or you have trouble sleeping - it's called being 50.

Posted by: Dan at January 7, 2012 5:37 PM

This is a very good post. New teachers are left on their own when they begin teaching and this isolation accounts for the high attrition rate in teaching. Conversely, veteran teachers have no career ladder, especially one that might free them from the responsibilities of the classroom, and allow them the latitude to use their expertise to help new teachers. The new induction program is an excellent idea, and one which should be widespread and permanent, not contingent upon the temporary RTTT funds.

Posted by: Snow at January 7, 2012 6:22 PM

Without trying to open a can of worms, what happens when you start relegating all these aged public safety employees to less physical jobs. Who takes their place on the line. Additionally, if there aren't enough less physical jobs, where do you draw the line.

Posted by: Max D at January 7, 2012 8:37 PM

"what happens when you start relegating all these aged public safety employees to less physical jobs. Who takes their place on the line."

Max, I think the idea is that 20-30 years isn't enough for reasonable 'matches' to pension funds to provide for reasonable payouts. What we have now looks like this: (numbers totally made-up)

20 - go to work
45 - retire and start collecting $30K annually, having contributed $200K to the system, which is now worth $300K
75 - die having pulled $900K+ post-retirement from the system.

total cost: A lot, plus we only get 25 years of labor from each employee.

When it could be:

20 - go to work
45 - retire from 'active duty' and switch to 'something low-impact' at a reasonable pay rate
60 - actually retire completely, having contributed $300K to the system which is now worth $500K
75 - die having pulled $450K from the system.

total cost: A lot less, plus we got a solid 40 years of labor from each employee (which seems about right).

So from a day-to-day, instead of the government paying $1 for retirees for each $1 in current paychecks, you end up paying a lot less and getting a lot more for it. Sure, the actual 'cost' might be about the same, but the VALUE is much higher.

Who better to do equipment upkeep, dispatching, education, outreach, check alarms and extinguishers door-to-door, do prevention work, or whatever than guys who've seen the horrors of fire for decades and know the secrets of the job?

Posted by: mangeek at January 9, 2012 4:53 PM

I get what your saying or maybe I don't. If you start moving people into these other positions are you replacing them on the front line with new hires and in effect expanding the workforce to get more years out them?

Posted by: Max D at January 9, 2012 9:01 PM

Just a view from the fire line:

I know its widely assumed on this site that we firefighters spend the majority of our day shopping for gourmet meals and then sleeping them off in a recliner but...

First, we spend several hours of our day on station & equipment maintenance and training already. It is the senior men who are actively on the line who lead such trainings. There is no need to keep old men on past an effective working age to accomplish these tasks. They are done daily already and without the added costs your plan would require. Also, many firefighters chose to work well past 20 years. I'd say the average firefighter works 27-30 years on the line. Those fortunate enough to earn a gold badge work even longer (as they are on a desk and physically feel able to do so.)So, you dont have this braindrain at 20 years like you suspect.
Lastly, if a pension plan is funded like its supposed to be, the city/state only contributes towards retirement for as long as the worker works.

Posted by: Rich at January 10, 2012 1:08 AM

A coach? Didn't they graduate from college so that now they need a coach?

Anyhow,I went to a parochial school. There were around 50 students,more or less a couple through the years in my class.

We always had one nun. No teachers's aids or any of that. Everybody was literate and numerant. Some of us were poor too. Poorer in fact than people who get such welfare benefits today. My school didn't require tuition payments.

Yet,all of us with one nun teaching us,could read,write and do arithmetic.

If somebody was really far behind,they stayed back and repeated the grade. I think only two kids in my class of 50 or so ever stayed back.

So what's the trouble with public schools?

Posted by: helen at January 12, 2012 12:49 AM
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