I've endlessly heard variations of the above quote from all types of 'reform groups' and policy wonks throughout the years. It seems to be this common thread that simultaneously insults the profession as it demeans those most dedicated to education. Why, do you say?
It implies that unlike virtually every profession out there, practice and experience are meaningless. When I needed back surgery, I looked for the doctor who had many years of experience and thousands of similar surgeries. When I seek any number of professionals, I search for those with glowing recommendations AND lots of experience. Teachers, however, seem to be perceived exactly opposite. Youth and vigor and drive are what make a great teacher.
For the moment, let's disregard the fact that studies have shown that inexperienced teachers are less effective.
Anecdotally, I can tell you that in every manner I've ever seen, veteran teachers are more effective. Just as you'd prefer your optometrist to not be fresh out of school, so too would you prefer to send your child to a teacher with many years of experience. Effective teaching, which involves a blend of effective classroom control, understanding of standards & content, and continuous growth is the result of years of focused practice. I've watched many new teachers teach, especially in the last couple years. They are motivated, driven, passionate, and full of vitality; nonetheless, they are inexperienced and far less effective than the majority of the veteran teachers in the building.
Consider for the moment a singular element of the profession: answering a student question. Teachers are probably asked two hundred questions a day, ranging from 'Can I go to the restroom?' to 'Where do I put the semicolon?'
--To the new teacher, every question is a unique experience, filled with potential errors and flaws and uncertainty.
--A veteran teacher however, has answered similar questions for years, can do so without dithering over the response.
Moreover, veteran teachers have had thousands of 'surgeries.' They've seen the students with fractured homes, handled problems of disability, seen kids enter the class unable to write. They've practiced teaching writing hundreds of times; they can both read Of Mice and Men out loud while correcting Johnny's misbehavior.
From my own experience, I wish that I could pull the lever of a time machine and return to those first five years of classes I taught and simply apologize to those students. Put plainly, I was not effective.
Mr. Whatley classes of 2000-2005: "I'm sorry for the education you received."