Education is a fundamental component for the development and ultimate advancement of the society. Educational institutes rely on teachers to impart knowledge to the students. These actions by the teachers contribute to the future success of the students and by extension the society. For this reason, teaching was traditionally regarded as the noblest profession and the community went to great lengths to ensure that teachers could perform their work with relative ease.
However, the teaching profession has become more and more challenging in the recent decade. Several areas of concern have come about within the teaching profession over the last decade. These have had a direct impact on the teachers’ ability to teach. This paper aims at providing a reflective analysis of issues facing secondary teachers that have become apparent from the turn of the century and how they contribute to creating a positive and effective learning environment. The paper will explore issues such as the aging of teachers, class relations, teacher empowerment, teacher morale and disconnection with school culture.
Teaching in Secondary Schools
Secondary education encompasses grade levels seven through to twelve although the criteria to distinguish it from other forms of education range from country to country. In some territories, grade levels seven and nine are housed in middle school leaving the secondary category to have only years 10 to 12 (Brewer 65). Over the last ten years, there have been successive revisions of educational curriculum, practices, management strategies, syllabuses, professional training and teaching styles (Pratt 490).
Teachers are now required to teach from an ideological socialist perspective rather than a philosophical educational understanding. This approach is meant to prepare students for employment and to make them embrace political activities as responsible citizens. This approach narrows the scope of challenges and demands for teachers. The knowledge taught in secondary schools today lies within a generalized common good. Teaching for individualism only happens if it benefits the common good. This approach allows for hierarchical preferences during time and resource allocation (Arnold 49).
Issues Faced by Teachers
According to Sunal and Kagendo, successful teaching and learning is a combination of several factors such as variety, engagement, pace, excitement, and fun (8). The distinguishing feature between educational failure and success is the individual class teacher and how he/she teaches. The student today is more confident, partly because of the awareness of the alternative source of knowledge as provided by the internet and other forms of technology.
Students in the 21st century can readily challenge their teachers’ level of knowledge and understanding. The students expect interaction with their teachers throughout the classroom session, with the teacher using a variety of approaches, clearly structured tasks, and a focus on enhancing the learning skills of the students. In such an environment, questions asked by the teacher would most likely yield debates than straight answers. These factors have directly impacted on real progress in teaching frameworks and therefore successful teaching and excellence expertise (Gonzalez, 165).
Brewer observed that today, students have so much to learn outside the school environment (56). With the internet era, young people have natural pressure to learn computer operations and understand several features associated with its memory, things that were not of importance in early societal setting. Mistakes made out of ignorance that one could get away within the 20th century are no longer acceptable today because people grow up with the new knowledge. This attitude as brought about by new technology has greatly enhanced students’ interest in learning, created a more relaxed learning environment and subsequently made the teaching process easier for the teacher today (Arnold, 43).
In the past teachers were required to compulsorily follow a strict syllabus set at the national level, with fixed books to be used in teaching. Today, teachers have the freedom to choose textbooks and other teaching materials (Sunal and Kagendo 111). They are also expected to come up with a syllabus of their own that they think will induce good performance for their students, both in school examinations and in life (Gonzalez 16). Curriculum design is a great challenge that teachers have to prepare for. Teachers now have to face the challenge of considering curriculum at three levels: the national, the core curriculum and the school curriculum.
The role of teachers in school management, according to Sunal and Kagendo, has greatly changed (12). The schools today require the teacher as an individual capable of making decisions and cope with the stresses that come with the changing world. They need to work in teams, co-operate with parents and colleagues in writing projects intended to gain money for school programs (54). They are expected to be public relations experts and monitor the changing world to perfectly fit in. they are expected to do all these things for a modest monthly salary provided to them by the government or the school (Brewer 13).
The role of the teacher today has also changed, from that of an educator to a supporter. As much as they are still the leaders of a classroom session, their role today is that of a facilitator in the learning process rather than the major source of knowledge in the school life of a student. In the past, teachers were the authority in the class and could often take over the role of parents and organize after-school activities for their students. The main task of a teacher in the teaching process today is to set goals and organize the learning process by the set goals. This has directly impacted to dynamic students ready to take up social responsibilities. Such students are not only ready to learn but also ready to learn how to learn, recognize and use relevant information (Gonzalez 67).
In the past, teachers used to struggle on their own in a mounding, disciplining, and motivating students (Arnold 89). The world today has realized that this teaching isolation is a great enemy to educational improvement. Teachers today work with other adults as facilitated by the new technology in cracking problems that face them in their teaching practice. Professionals from other fields can now be readily accessed by teachers to provide solutions on matters such as, how to motivate students, how to challenge low expectations, or how to motivate students (Brewer, 12). This new vision of teaching marks a great evolution in the areas of professional practice and has greatly boosted teacher morale.
Aging of teachers
According to Gonzalez, elderly teachers with more than forty years of age have a great challenge in adapting to the attitudes and technologies of the 21st century (17). The current need for schools to teach their students on how to gain select and use information is happening at such a fast pace that, students today, are learning how to use the internet together with their teachers. Teachers today are expected to have a solid technical background.
They need to be skilled on how to effectively handle modern information technology appliances such as computers, PowerPoint, projectors, photocopiers, and the like. They need to be information technology experts and update themselves with new websites including social networks popularly used by their students. This might pose a great challenge to aged teachers who might not fit well in new generational changes in technology (Arnold 23).
The ways of teaching and learning today has widely broadened. Choice and equity varies proportionately and runs parallel to social demographics. Most teachers were however brought up and taught from a much more liberal perspective. To some teachers, the new teaching perspective under modern guidelines seems impossible and fantastical. Societies with aging populations are however focusing on supporting and taking advantage of professional experience that comes with maturity. These aspects can potentially be used in fostering greater stability for schools and learning models (Brewer 91).
Another major challenge facing secondary teachers today is identifying the world view in which a given curriculum is framed. The society is becoming more diverse and political correctness is rapidly taking over free-thinking (Arnold 34). Today, most educational theories on how people learn have ceased to hold weight because they are based on an assessment of a completely foreign world that is no longer relevant today. The definition of intelligence has changed. For instance, today a two-year-old can easily navigate around an iPhone, edit photos and explore the games area, typing in names when required. This happens years before joining school. Such demonstrations leave most educational theorists out of the loop (Gonzalez 66).
Teachers are expected to respond to these technological advances and human evolution by keeping on their toes to maintain their relevancy as the traditional primary source of formal knowledge. They have to do this by keeping in mind the variations in exposure to modern technology among students as brought about by economic diversity. This has prompted many educational institutions to equip their learning centers that are technologically updated to the advantage of all students at the institution (Arnold 43).
Disconnection with School culture
There is a marked change in the culture of educational institutions regarding the participation of teachers in the running of the school. This has had a great impact on the connection of teachers to the school culture. Parents today are doing more than just sending their kids to school in the morning and picking them up in the evenings. Mot parents need to have a view of the daily happenings in the educational institutions to which they take their children. They are fully involved in the process of decision making at school. They, therefore, fully take part in the life of the school (Brewer 20).
Teaching in secondary schools has now seized to be a form of exam preparation and training as it was in the past. As much as exam preparation is still important in schools today, the theme of the examinations has changed and the concept of learning to learn is slowly becoming an important element in the teacher’s job (Sunal and Kagendo 22). School time has greatly contracted and the usual culture by teachers to give long wait times to students for gathering resources for information is no longer needed in the school curriculum today (Arnold 36). This contraction in research time gives students ample time to engage in a larger number of relevant co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Learning times are therefore shorter and learning environments friendlier.
Discussion and Conclusion
Students in the 21st generation need to gain support and life skills from their teachers during their years in school. Governments today need to shift their outlook of teacher training to teacher education. There is a need for a generation of teachers whose aim is in developing learners rather than teaching them. The teachers need to motivate their students into autonomous life-long learners who are independent and know how to learn. This is one of the most important aspects of the education of the future. These objectives require the full participation of governments, higher education institutions, and teacher educators.
The current scope of information and communication technology can be used in personalizing the curriculum, supporting pupils’ progress and in encouraging problem-solving activities, both at the individual and team level. There are several opportunities offered by the online curriculum that can supplement the standards offered by the actual curriculum. The power of information and communication technology can be used to organize the learning process and environment into effective time units and can also expand schooling beyond school time. The potential of new technology should be exploited to improve testing, assessment, and examination.
The quality of educational materials and tools available to teachers should be focused on genuine time saving and workload reduction. It should now or soon be the norm of every teacher to teach, plan and mark by use of a laptop. Schools should now consider linking school to home, teacher, pupil, and parent through email. Schools now need to restructure their curriculum and redefine their objectives to get the correct balance between assessment of learning and assessment for learning. Assessment for learning involves using data to promote student learning. Other teachers are involved in the teaching process through professional discussions and adjustment of teaching strategies.
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