Yesterday I came across a challenge by Marty Stevens (@martylstevens) encouraging educators to personally identify the issues they believe to be impacting students the most. For me, the following 3 issues quickly came to mind:
1. An Increased Need for Social/Emotional Development
The students in our classrooms today need us in different ways than the generations of the past. The times have changed dramatically, and our current world requires an increase in skills that support effective relations and acceptance of diverse perspectives. Our students need us to not only strengthen and support their minds, but their hearts as well. Unless we are reaching our learners through relationships we will not reach them academically. We must first work to establish safe learning environments for our students, ones in which they feel supported to take risks. This begins with positive interactions among the entire classroom community, as well as the school culture as a whole. A safe environment, through, is not created through a laborious list of rules and expectations, but rather through the development of social skills that support the affective domain of our learners. Intentional lessons and activities must be infused into our classrooms daily to support social and emotional growth. Listening intently to student voice will also prove to be valuable as community expectations are discussed. When this foundation is in place our learners will then, and only then, thrive academically.
2. Insufficient Resources within Education Today
Educational funding is very limited these days. We have experienced an insane amount of cuts especially over the past 5 years. These cuts have not just affected teachers' salaries and benefits, but also the supplies and tools we can put in the hands of students. And I am not necessarily even referring to large scale curriculum adoptions, but rather genuine resources our students need access to regularly (updated technology, a variety of literature, field trips, supplies to support the Arts, manipulatives that enhance science and math explorations, etc.). These are the resources that provide our students more opportunities for genuine learning experiences and direct connections to the real-world. These are also the resources that allow the basic skills or reading, writing, and math to be authenticated and solidified. And most importantly these resources support teachers in helping students achieve true retention and master relevant skills.
Stripping the educational budget of professional development monies allotted to school districts has also dynamically impacted students. The advancement of technology and the skills required in this era have outpaced teacher development. A large gap now exists between what students need in a learning environment and what teachers are able to naturally provide. Teachers need time to collaborate in order to learn and grow and meet the students' needs in the classrooms of today. Frequent (inexpensive) professional development opportunities must exist in order for teachers to advance with the rate the changes of today are requiring, otherwise the gap will just continue to widen.
3. Learning Environments that Meet the Needs of this Generation
Our students are facing an unknown future; that much we know. However, some of the materials, skills/strategies, and curriculum existing within the classrooms of today are equipped for the generations of the past. Traditional practices were not developed to meet the needs of the learners of today. They were developed during different times to prepare students for a different future. Our students struggle with engagement within environments that is so extremely different than the world they know. They are acquainted with the technological advances, the momentum of the world, the desire to connect and collaborate with people frequently, the need to question in order to learn, and the aspirations that are building inside them as they recognize the possibilities the world has to offer. It is our current responsibility to teach students, in this innovative generation, to think critically, create, communicate, and collaborate with the people of the world. We must recognize these as essentials and find a way to ensure that our learning environments foster these skills so students are prepared for success as they approach their future.
These are 3 issues that constantly weigh on my mind as an educator. What about the issues that weigh on the minds of our students? As Marty also mentioned, maybe we should be asking students to identify 3 issues that impact them. I think the answers to this question would prove to be of value. Ann and I will definitely be infusing this question into a Brain Breakfast this upcoming week. I am very curious to find out if their perspectives will overlap at all with mine... I absolutely look forward to listening to their collective voice.
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