Hey New Teacher – This Will Get You Fired!

Most school nondual teacher are rather lenient when it comes to new teacher mistakes. However, because of a lack of experience, there are several things that can and do get new teachers fired. This article is about one specific action by one specific teacher; although I’m beginning to wonder if he is one of those Urban Legends.

First, some background. A couple weeks ago I was doing some research for an article about UCSMP (University of Chicago School Mathematics Project) and trends in mathematics. I taught high school math in a school district that started using UCSMP (we referred to it as the Chicago Series) in 1988. My feelings about the Chicago Series will be in another article, but overall, I considered it to be an excellent math series with tremendous potential for improving student understanding of mathematics but with a couple major flaws that always seemed to lead to its demise. For my research, I just wanted to know if it still existed. I came across an article that I thought was written this year by a 23-year-old, male, 3rd grade math, 1st year teacher. My immediate reaction to his article was that he should be fired for several reasons.

I’m ashamed to admit that I have just spent almost five hours trying to find his article again so that I could verify my facts. I was never able to find it again. (Did he get fired and remove it?) However, I found articles referring to a 23-year-old 1st year math teacher who taught 4th grade math in 2006; and I found a similar article referring to a 23-year-old female math teacher who was being praised for what she did. This is probably a good example of how stories change in the retelling. What I finally decided about the story was that it really doesn’t matter whether it is true or not. Either way, it is a wonderful example both of something a new teacher absolutely should never do, and it is a good example of both of those major flaws in the Chicago Series.

In his article, this brand new teacher–straight out of college–was hired by a school district to teach 3rd grade math. This school district was using the elementary school version of UCSMP–Everyday Mathematics. I can’t remember whether he wrote the article in September or October (one of the facts I wanted to check), but the point is that it was very early in the school year. He had already run into some problems: his students didn’t understand anything they were being taught and their parents were all mad. He decided that the problem was the textbook and its approach, so he made a unilateral decision (no discussion with the department head or Principal) to stop using the district-chosen series and, instead, teach his 3rd grade students the way he thought they should be taught. And not only that, but he was so proud of his decision that he put it on the internet. No discussion with his Principal, but he writes about it on the internet. The arrogance of youth!

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