Experience vs Age

You will no doubt have seen the film Apollo 13. The intention was for this, the 7th manned mission, to be the 3rd mission to land on the moon. It didn't manage to land on the moon but due to a ridiculous amount of ingenuity and luck it managed to land back on Earth.

Since the 40th Anniversary of the launch it is now common knowledge that the average age of the people in Mission Control was 26 years old. Gene Kranz (he of waistcoat fame, portrayed by Ed Harris in the movie) was the "old man in the room" at 35. The controllers had developed a shared set of values, namely: discipline, morale, toughness, competence, commitment and teamwork.

Stop for a moment and read that last paragraph again.

What surprises you most?

On a personal note, I'm 40 years old so the idea that 35 is the age of the old man in the room worries me. I think back to what I was doing at 26 years old and I imagine that I possessed the qualities needed (arrogance) to single-handedly land a man on any planet in the Solar System. At 40 years old I have exchanged arrogance for limitations. But I have an assured idea of what my limitations are. Anything within my limitations are pursued confidently. But no doubt as I age I'll see my limitations increase for reasons that I can't quite explain. This year I stopped cycling due to the ridiculous driving nature of too many people. I've cycled for about 15 years without incident but this year I stopped feeling invincible. So the bike will not be ridden for a while.

Most people entering teaching do so at the age of 22; straight from University, immediately after 6th form having been in compulsory education for 11 years. Now I didn't follow that path and I would say that anyone that does is potentially disadvantaged. Teachers are most effective when they are inspired and passionate. There is no doubt that there are many people for whom teaching is their calling. They will feel as driven to teach in 5, 10, 20 years from when they started. However 50% of new teachers leave the profession within 5 years. This statistic applies unusually to the UK and the US.

I wonder what would happen if we raised the minimum age of teachers. Would it reduce the problem with teacher retention? There are reasons for and against this. I don't intend to be balanced; instead I hope to invite comments about this on twitter (#RTMAOT) where I will collate and display the results at the beginning of February.

But I think it best to start the ball rolling.

Can a teacher who has never left education knowingly prepare pupils for careers that are not linked to education? If a prospective teacher had to have a minimum of 3 years experience "in industry", (as teachers call work), before starting teacher training, they could speak to pupils with knowledge about the demands that work will make of them.

I worked in a variety of industries for 12 years before becoming a teacher. I have been a factory worker on shifts, a member of the Store Management team in a department store (working every weekend), a business owner (working 364 days a year), a Civil Servant, a Customer Service Advisor, and a Bookkeeper. I feel that the years spent in each of those areas have made me a more knowledgeable and relevant teacher to my pupils. Not once in any of those jobs did I have to make sure I underlined my date with a pencil and a ruler!

Therefore I ask the following:

Should teachers have to wait until they are at least 25 (and therefore have 3 years "real" work experience)?


Either way, they'd be younger than the average age of Mission Control.