As the educational system continues to come under increasing amounts of scrutiny, the teacher is ultimately at the fulcrum of pressure. They are required to digest new educational theory and sort out the wheat from the chaff. They are asked to manage increasing levels of diversity in the classroom, and students who come to class across a widening spectrum of preparedness. At the same time, they are expected to be a students friend, motivator, and at times surrogate parent. Technological advances in the marketplace have made it necessary for teachers to adapt to increasing amounts of technology in the classroom. All of these issues are coming at a time when federal mandates in the No Child Left Behind act are demanding improved performance, in some cased dramatically improved performance.
In light of the increased levels of demands placed on teachers and the continuing decline of academic performance, it is no wonder that today's teacher is suffering from a loss of self-esteem. Teachers are considered important and valuable for the work they do, but their work is done in relative obscurity. According to Chall, in her piece "Restoring Dignity and Self-Worth to teachers" society values the product of an effective teacher, a well educated child, but does not value the teacher enough to pay him or her well. This has been the approach of the American education institutions since the time of de Tocqueville.
Teachers and teaching conditions are developing into what could be compared to early 20th century sweat shop conditions, with low pay, intolerable demands, inadequate resources, and long hours. Teachers often take home materials to correct in their free time. National studies have found that on the average, teachers will spend close to 400.00 of their own money toward classroom supplies.
In order to restore the self dignity of teachers, some suggest increased levels of recognition for their work, and acknowledging teachers in the same way administrators and lecturers are lauded. However, in any organized effort, the leaders receive the praise while those in the trenches continue to wage battle day after day. This pattern is just the way of things. No, the source of improving teacher's dignity will not be found in the short lived praise offered by others, but in giving teachers the tools and support to do their jobs well. Teachers will find their own encouragement when they can look at educated young faces, knowing they have achieved the goal of their profession.
Part Two: Students
Today's students are also in a place of increased risk. Factors affecting their home life, and changing cultural morals which allow children increasing levels of latitude without supervision have created a child that is less suited for the classroom than in any previous generation. Take little Johnny who spends hours per day flipping channels on the television, only to find mindless humor, and unrealistic depictions of everyday life. He leaves the Television to engage in an hour of video games, in which his mind, eyes, ears, and fingers are stimulated to the point of fatigue and numbness. The continual flashing colors, flashing lights and sounds engage Johnny's cerebral cortex, and create thought patterns and expectations. When Johnny leave his video world, any endeavors which are not equally stimulating and sensorily engaging do not hold his attention for more than a few minutes.
Then in the morning, Johnny is asked to attend school, where he sits for hours at a time, trying to make sense out of boring printed words, and chalk talk. Is it any wonder why teachers are having decreased levels of effectiveness on the children? They are charged with the task of educating, not entertaining. And Johnny is used to being entertained.
In Urie Bronfenbrenners piece regarding alienation and the child, he also addressed the sociological issues of homes which have two working parents. The children in these homes tend to carry more responsibility in the home, which can lead toward resentment, while at the same time suffering from a lack of direct parental attention, which can lead to more resentment, or rebellion. Bronfenbrenner also discussed the 'havoc in the home' which the pace of a two parent working home creates. Everything is done in a rush, from collecting books and lunches in the morning as everyone hastens out the door to school and office, to the hurried dinners at night before extracurricular school actives, or evening home work begins. Very seldom do these families get the time to sit, and relax with each other, building the relationship which tend toward strong families and prepared students.
Bronfenbrenner says that the greatest risk is that the external chaos becomes internal chaos. When the scheduling demand begin to leach over into personal relationships, parents marriages suffer, children's confidence levels plummet, and the entire organization called the family looses its cohesiveness. These are the students, and the condition of the students who are coming into class every day. In order for the school to make a positive contribution, it needs to recognize the increasing levels of need which our modern society has created in the lives of its children, and make steps to adapt itself to the tasks at hand. One step proposed by Bronfenbrenner is mentoring relationship for children. Another is increasing school to community ties.
Part four: Curriculum
Curriculum essentially is the content that is considered worth learning. The definition of curriculum is the body of knowledge, facts, figures, and abilities that when a person obtains mastery over, the person is considered educated, and ready for the world. In a world that is changing as rapidly as ours, the content of curriculum has also been brought into question. Educators are unresolved over the question of what is worth knowing when knowledge is changing at an exponential rate.
Should a student be taught to memorize, or taught how to think about topics so that they can reason for themselves. Is in important for the child to know a specific knowledge base of facts, figures, events and details when the child will admittedly forget most of what he has memorized after the end of the school year? Educators have taken a more progressive view of these issues in recent decades, and as a result, curriculum has been brought into question. Unfortunately, because of different presupposition among the educational community, the answer to these questions has not been yet derived.
For example, Postman's piece called 'The ascent of Humanity' uses this for a definition of curriculum. "I am proposing a curriculum in which all subjects are presented as a stage in humanities historical development, in which the philosophy of science, of history, of language and of religion are taught, and in which there is strong emphasis on classical forms of artistic expression" This definition has little meaning when culture is changing at current rates. In past generations, cultural shift extended over 30 to 40 years, in today's culture, Gen X has already been replaced by Gen Y, and no one can define when the transition happened, or what it means. How can textbook printers commit investments to print textbook that include current philosophy of religion and science when these two subjects are still locked in a centuries old conflict over Darwin, and his flawed theory of evolution?
Like the outdated argument over the influence of nature over nurture in the development of the human personality, so it is time to retire the argument over learning a fixed body of information vs. learning how to learn. Student need both, and without both, they will likely be unprepared for the world that awaits them.
Part Five: Instruction
In light of the previous discussions of teacher's struggles in the classroom, and child social issues, the subject of quality instruction is also receiving much attention. Teachers have a wider scope of issues to address in the classroom, more demands on their time and energy, and less concrete direction as to what approach will produce the results which they are looking for. In addition, changing ethics on the value of discipline in the classroom are also contributing to the wide range of modern educational issues.
Talent and Busch identify the difference between disruptive and defiant behaviors. Disruptive behavior can stem from a number of sources, and will likely not include a direct desire of the child to disrupt the learning environment. For example, children who tap their pencils in a desk, or tip their chair against the wall are normally action out of childhood excess energy, rather than deliberate deviance. The approach to these minor problems is simple reminders, and correction techniques. However, in most classrooms, there tend to be one or two students who wish to disrupt the class for their own benefit, and these children need to experience negative consequences for their behavior in order to learn to make different choices. The approach recommended by these women is a 'time out' period during which the child is separated from the class. By confidently modeling behavioral modification techniques, the teacher can most often turn…