For a glimpse into the evolution of teaching, we interviewed Sheila Waters, a woman who taught for 32 years, on her experience in the classroom. Sheila taught both art and first grade in New York and is now finishing her first year of retirement. Read on to learn more about how teaching has changed over the years.
When Sheila started teaching in 1979 in Dolgville, New York, her starting salary was $9,800 for the year.
To be a teacher in New York, Sheila needed a bachelor’s degree and a provisional certification. In addition, within five years of getting a permanent teaching position, she was required to earn a master’s degree.
Sheila described the school as a real community. “I had all the little ones so I knew almost every one in the town,” she said. “It was a small town so I saw everyone at the grocery store. The 6th grade teacher always directed the play and as the art teacher, I always helped her make the decorations.”
Art now is much more academic than it used to be. “Those days,” Sheila said, “lessons were much more project-based. People would give me (wallpaper, fabric) scraps and it was much harder to find ideas. Today, people can search Pinterest or Google and find 50 different ways to make an owl out of a paper plate. Before, it was a lot more research.”
For professional development, Sheila would get together with teachers from other districts and share lesson ideas. Instead of searching Twitter for #PLN, she’d travel 10 miles to a local college for face-to-face interaction.
As the years went on, Sheila said that there were a lot more meetings. For students who needed special attention, it took a lot more work to get them the extra help they needed. “It became a much more complicated process. More people had to get involved. More reports had to be filed.”
As far as classroom instruction was concerned, school got much more measured and academic, according to Sheila. “Before, it was more units, themes, and creative—now it’s like ‘it’s not academic enough.’ There art tests, gym tests, and even music tests! Everything is analyzed and it felt like we couldn’t do anything fun.”
There was more pressure as the years progressed, but it made the students better off. “Students were learning much more in kindergarden, and came into the first grade as better readers. Instead of working on letter sounds and basic sentences, some students were leaving first grade reading 70-page books.”
Would you do it again?
“I think so,” said Sheila. “I liked it for the most part. It’s a good schedule and you have so much more time with your kids. The most important job is to be a parent.”