Reflective Teaching Challenge Day Seventeen: Challenges in Education Today

DAY 17

What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today?

Do you feel like a cliche when you begin sentences with the phrase, “When I was in school,…”?  I find myself falling victim to the generation-chasm more frequently than I’d care to admit.  It’s not that I believe there are issues today that weren’t present when I was in school, but I do believe that there are different circumstances and influences.  Today’s classroom is much different than the one of a mere fifteen years ago.  I may not know what is the most challenging, but I do know what obstacles I am up against.

Challenging Issues in Education Today

1.  Technology

No matter how you view the inclusion of technology in the class, a necessary evil or platform for more effective instruction, there’s no denying its ever-increasing presence.  The challenging issues surrounding technology include schools keeping up with the demands of technology usage, teachers educating themselves on how to be more innovative with technology, and finding useful ways of implementing smartphones and tablets instead of banning them because of the distracting nature of them.

2.  Diminishing Attention Spans

Speaking of the negative viewpoints towards technology, many educators blame the incessant nature of smartphones and tablets as the number one reason why students are not able to competently complete their assignments.  Just watch your colleagues at your next staff meeting or conference; as adults, we are no able to leave our phones alone, feeling the constant need to “check in” somewhere other than where we are presently.  Our students are no different.  They’re being bombarded by notifications that take away their attention span, breaking off their train of thought and leaving their work incomplete or lacking.

3.  Merit-Based Pay

I admit that I don’t know the full history of merit-based pay, but I feel as though its incorporation has come to the forefront in more recent years.  I know it’s a controversial stance to take, but I can see the benefits and draw backs of relying on such a compensation system.  You are either rewarding the stronger teachers and encouraging those who struggle, or you’re creating a system where teachers are more concerned about test results than educating students.  I happen to believe that you cannot be focused on both.  With that being said, I believe that merit-based pay is challenging because it tears down the integrity of the craft of teaching.  I don’t know any person who went into education for the limelight, so you know that it’s not about the paycheck.  By turning test results into measuring sticks for how teachers are compensated, you’re tainting the industry as a whole.

4.  Standardized Assessments

From Common Core to SAT/ACT to the over-assessing of our students, we have become a society that is more concerned about how students perform on a test than the actual education process.  This response goes hand-in-hand with my response to the challenging nature of merit-based pay.  No teacher went into education to produce test-takers.

5.  Disappearing Middle Class

What I mean by the disappearing middle class is that it’s becoming more and more difficult for the average American family to afford to send its children to college as it becomes more and more vital that young people have a college education.  The more students are forced to take out student loans, the more debt that is created for them to crawl out of.  Of course there is no appropriate blanket statement, but with the job market the way that it is, young people are slowly accepting that they may graduate from college, burdened with student loans as it is, without any decent job prospects.

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