Today’s challenges in teaching

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As the new semester begins, the Business Optimizer team considers some of the obstacles that teachers are currently facing – and how the world of education can meet these challenges.

Today’s teachers are preparing their students for a world which will be shaped by forces it is difficult to predict. The impact of climate change and the role of technology in the future of work make it hard to be sure about what skills learners will need to navigate the future.

At the same time, teachers are dealing with multiple pressures – both old and new – in the here and now. Business Optimizer looks at some of the challenges that teachers face today.

#1. Being encouraging and motivating through difficult times

The pandemic has had a huge impact on this generation of learners. The OECD warns that young people’s mental health worsened significantly through 2020 to 2021. They are significantly more likely to report feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness.

Teachers must navigate through this difficult climate: pushing students to be and do their best whilst, at the same time, not putting too much pressure on anxious individuals.

What can be done?

Schools need to take time to equip students with the vocabulary to talk about their feelings. They must also ensure the right support services are in place and that students know how to access them.

#2. Balancing the needs of a mixed-ability class

It’s a common challenge for teachers. Focus on the strugglers and the higher attainers coast without being challenged. Focus on the top and the middle and you risk the strugglers falling further behind.

What can be done?

Lesson planning needs to allow for different levels of tasks which account for this issue. Questions, tasks, problem-sets and extension questions must allow for different levels of ability while ensuring long-term learning goals are met. While this requires more time upfront in terms of lesson planning, in the long-term it will pay off – both for the teacher and the class.

#3. Funding constraints

The war in Ukraine, the climate crisis and the escalating geo-political tensions between China and the USA and the resulting high inflation in many countries around the world are threatening to undermine global economic stability, making it likely that the funding pressures that schools are already facing are only going to get worse in the short to medium term.

What can be done?

There aren’t easy answers to this one. Governments around the world need to recognise the importance of education for future success and prioritise funding accordingly.

#4. Larger class sizes

With funding tightening, class sizes are likely to increase – making it even harder for teachers to balance the needs of their class.

What can be done?

Technology can help. Real-time understanding via checks and quizzes can help you monitor progress. Plus, if students’ answers can be marked automatically, it returns more time to teachers outside teaching hours.

#5. Growing amounts of paperwork

Whether it is a result of testing and exam papers needing to be marked, additional reporting in response to pressures from school administrators, or teaching notes and progress tracking, paperwork is a growing feature of teachers’ lives. Unfortunately, it isn’t usually accounted for in normal hours – meaning teachers find themselves extending their working hours to get it done.

What can be done?

Teachers need to practice self-care. Recognise the signs of burnout. If you do find yourself showing increasing signs of anxiety or stress, health must come first. Is it possible to speak with your school board about reducing your hours?

Schools need to allocate time for teachers when they add to their administrative burden: better to make time in the timetable now, than risk losing highly qualified and experienced teachers from the profession later.

#6. Political interference in curriculum

Aside from the practical inconveniences and additional time required to replan lessons, political interference in the curriculum is highly undesirable. In Florida, school boards asked schools to remove titles from their libraries as a result of the culture wars raging in the USA.

What can be done?

A free society rests on the free transmission of ideas. There’s an important reason why freedom of the press is the First Amendment right. It’s up to us all to defend the right to freely share and discuss ideas.

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