Todd Lucas
about 3 years ago
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Ageism and the death of "best man for the job"

I got into teaching "late" in my career. And by "late" I mean late 30's early 40's. I went back to school in 2008 to finish my undergad (was 36 at the time) and told myself I wanted to finish before I was 40. Which I did in 2011. The week after I completed my undergrad I immediately started my Masters in Education Curriculum & Instruction program while working a full time 40 hour a week job AND doing my student teaching all at the same time. Still kept an A in all my classes as well.

I got laid off at a job I had for 7 years due to automation in my job path in 2012 (just turned 40), but it was close enough to the start of a school year that all teaching positions were already filled, so I substituted for a year in my home district to make a lot of good contacts. Which I did. That summer I snuck into the high school I was at a lot, where I made a very good friend with the AP in charge of subs who told me they literally had a teacher quit less than 2 hours ago. So she walked me right to the principal who interviewed me on the spot, and hired me on the spot. I was ELATED!!!

First year teaching though, I was not given a mentor as promised by the principal. He later told me halfway through the year that I had great relationships build with my students and had incredible activities to accompany my lessons, but having gone right from corporate to teaching as I did, I knew nothing of teaching strategies. So he recommended a few seminars I might want to attend. I did....and 3 others he didn't even tell me about.

Summer leading into my second year I was all about improving. Watched YouTube, TED Talks, read blogs, websites, connected on social media...whatever I could to learn what I needed to know about the best ways to get kids to learn. It paid off. I was nominated for Teacher of the Month three times, nominated for Best student-centered classroom in a school of 230 teachers and 3600 students, nominated as Most Improved teacher...and with my peers saying all these things about me, I thought it was a great sign that I was doing something right.

Then came the blindside shot.

Principal tells me he doesn't think I have grown enough as a teacher and doesn't want to renew me, followed by the words "But I haven't read your evaluation, and I'm not going to." This said in front of my on-campus teacher union rep as well! Every single person in the school was floored by his decision. MY evaluation was stunning. I was rated as a highly proficient teacher, with several marks of "Exceeds expectations" from an evaluator who says no one should ever get those marks because we are all capable of improving something.

My team was absolutely stunned. Especially the young teacher on my team, who was in her first year at that school (third overall in her career) who had an evaluation that had her, based on what SHOULD have happened, on the short list to be walked out the door. What actually happened was that I resigned to prevent a non-renewal from going on my record, and the younger teacher was not only renewed, but REWARDED by being given every section of the new Human Geography classes that were going to be taught there the next year. A class I lobbied for and successful got added to the curriculum.

At that point, I had just turned 43. She was 26...and pregnant. One of the other teachers overheard the principal say specifically he wanted to get as many of the older teachers out of the school because "he couldn't mold us the way HE wanted us to be. That we would challenge him on his decisions." If you mean refusing to make the lowest grade a 60 instead of a zero when a student does no work, or when we don't agree with every single word that comes out of your mouth....then yes, you are going to get challenged.

I was one of 8 teachers not brought back the following year. All of us over 40.

Texas is also a "funny" state for teachers. The statues for beginning teachers favor the schools instead of the educators. The first 3 years one is considered "probationary" to the point that a principal can simply not like the color of your hair and non-renew you claiming "it's in the best interest of the school," and the teacher has ZERO recourse to fight it. No. One.

So I have been substitute teaching for the past 2 years now to try to get back in a classroom, especially since I have finished my Masters degree (May 2016). This past school year I was forced to work a $12/hour job on top of substituting, giving me a 7 day a week schedule all year just to survive as my wife got laid off last May from her college position and has yet to find something else on her end as well.

But now, at 45, I am STILL not being given a chance to show what I can bring to a classroom. Summer 2016...200+ applications out...not one single call. Summer 2017, 200+ applications out again, one interview 4 weeks ago that I was promised follow up on and have yet to hear a single thing back about. My fear now is that I am NOT going to be looked at regardless of my abilities, and that my career teaching, the one I worked long and hard to get into, was ended by an unethical and unprofessional dictator before I was given a chance to grow.

It's just sad that age can officially be an unofficial way to not hire someone who could possibly be the best thing your school ever had if you just gave them a chance. And the current job market makes no effort to hide the fact that virtually the only candidates they will consider are younger applicants with little to no experience....career, life, or otherwise.

When you have a manager who is barely older than your 22 year old daughter, making almost $4000 a month in their first job while you are mid career and barely making $12 an hour...life seems futile.

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Gayane Voskanyan
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It is absolutely ridiculous what those of us over 40 has to face. I am over 40 and recently got laid off from my position as an HR manager. After 40+ submission every month, I barely get a call or land an interview. The interviews I have gone to nothing came out of it. The competition is steep and I believe what you are saying is absolutely true. Age does matter and that is the sad part. I will pray that those of us who are out there to give back to the community better than a younger generation can in terms of experience and loyalty can find something soon.

3y
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Anthony Harrington
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You should look into being a corporate trainer. It's not as rewarding as being a teacher, but the pay can be very good. You have classroom facilitation experience, instructional design, lesson plan creation and execution, etc...

I would look at that as a viable career. DFW has a huge market for corporate trainers, and it's not a young employees market so someone in their 40s would be a good fit.

3y
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Antonia Hall
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I really was saddened and felt a little comforted after I read this. Pretty much the same thing happened to me—wasn’t ready to retire, got forced out as a 63 year old—out of a juvenile hall court school I had high student grad rate, Master’s in SpEd, Special Ed teacher of the year award. In one day, they told me to leave. I went to hearing and won—they had illegally laid me off...Long story short...my lawyer said, this is standard strategy to get rid of older teachers. I retired w a settlement; and I made an incredible stink before I left. Their loss. But! I truly miss my students...The whole process almost sent me off the deep end.

39w
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Antonia Hall
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Give it up. Public screwels don’t deserve you. Do something else. You obviously have much to offer.

39w
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Denise Payne
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I agree age plays a big part, I will be 50, Certified Biller and Coder it's hard to find a job.

39w
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Joe Brumley
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I've seen blatant age discrimination within many high profile organizations, from the inside as an employee, and on the outside looking in, and at all leadership levels. I'm 62 and have even seen it in federal and state institutions who supposedly have zero tolerance for age discrimination!

Though rare, there are organizations and organizational leadership cultures that value experience and a seasoned perspective. Take comfort in the thought that the disapproving principal is paying a price in the long run for his/her poor judgement and lack of diverse experience to draw upon. Surrounding yourself with "yes men" never works!

39w
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