Teaching Today

Today was a professional development day, and we had an interesting guest speaker on the topic of discipline. I wanted to share part of what he discussed today with edubloggers in hopes that we can contribute to the dialogue.

Do you think teaching is harder today than it was for your teachers when you were in school?

Most of my faculty said yes, it is. So did I. Why, I wasn’t sure I could articulate, but I just knew something different exists between teachers and students today that didn’t exist when I was a student myself. Our speaker identified three cultural markers that changed schools and made teaching (and for that matter, parenting) more difficult.

  1. Columbine. If the last few days with another school shooting in the news have underscored anything, it is simply that our schools are no longer about education first. We are about safety first, and education has to come second. That’s frightening on a couple of levels.
  2. Monica Lewinsky. The dialogue we have to have with teenagers is different. A sizable contingent of our girls does not believe oral sex is sex, and, surprisingly, our boys are doing little to disabuse our girls of this notion.
  3. Technology. We can’t keep our students or children from bad information. We used to be able to control what they heard and saw a little better. Now they pick up information they aren’t mature enough to process. The Internet is an amazing, wonderful, useful tool, but we all know it has a dark side that has given our youth access to stuff they frankly shouldn’t see or in some cases (in my opinion) even know about. I wish I didn’t know about some of it, too — I was pretty happy not knowing, truth be told. Our speaker didn’t mention this aspect of technology, but every teacher knows that it has proven to be a temptation for cheating, too.

Obviously, other factors have changed our society and contributed to the way our educational system is today, making our jobs harder than our own teachers’ jobs were.

Why do you think teaching is more difficult today? If you don’t think it is, why not?

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3 thoughts on “Teaching Today

  1. Mainstreaming. When and where I was in school, there were no severe behavioral problems, ELD students, or special ed students in the general ed classroom. GATE-type students (there was no GATE label then) were allowed to accelerate via independent study or grade skipping.

    Good, bad, or indifferent, mainstreaming/inclusion makes teaching, at least in an elementary environment, an extraordinarily different job.

  2. Number 4 and still counting.

    Teachers are now required to be more than teachers. Students are starved for attention these days. If I'm eating lunch in my classroom, students come in just to talk and hang out. Students know my prep period, so they drop by to talk and use it as a study hall. Before school, they come in early just to talk and share what’s happening in their lives while I scramble around with one ear listening, and the rest of me preparing for the day’s lesson.

    When I was a student, the last people on Earth I wanted to hang out with were my teachers. Now students are looking to teachers for guidance, mentoring, counseling, and friendship; we have become pseudo parents in their lives. I'm starting to realize that classroom management has very little to do with discipline and much more with how teachers relate to their students.

  3. More than all else I believe the inclusion of social services in the classroom and school have affected schools greatly. What was once expected to be done outside of the school walls now occurs within its confines, which of course takes away from traditional teaching time.

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