In my education career I’ve had the opportunity to work at many levels -- as a teacher at the high school level, a building administrator at the junior high level, and now at the district level as a central office administrator.
In these positions I’ve experienced myself or have witnessed six common problems that seem to affect all teachers. I’ve listed them here followed by some solutions to these common problems:
1. Time – there’s not enough of it - We are all busy, but that doesn’t mean we can't explore and try new ideas. Through Twitter, we have a 24/7 group of educators who are willing to help and support (through ideas and feedback). Two questions: Am I being the kind of teacher I would want for my own kids? Am I taking enough time to explore and learn new ways of teaching that will improve my instructional practices? New ideas and initiatives almost always take more time and patience.
2. Students – there are too many - With most class sizes on the rise, this will continue to be a legitimate concern. Try to build leadership capacity in the classroom by empowering and tapping into the strengths of some of your best kids. 25 students in one class can be problematic at times. Find three or four superstar students to lead and guide the other students.
3. Technology and new ideas – teachers are afraid and scared to implement - Trying something new can be scary. Don't be afraid to ask colleagues for help, guidance and advice. Most teachers WILL be willing to help! Before trying something new in my classroom, I always told myself the worst thing that can happen is I will learn how to do it better next time.
4. Conflict – there’s departmental strife - There is always the potential for a difference in opinions when working with others, and a healthy disagreement is not always a bad thing. When teachers in a department disagree about something, remember that they feel what they are doing is best for their students. Listen to what your colleagues have to say and allow them to explain why they do what they do.
5. Resources – there aren’t enough to go around - Budgets are being cut, and the lack of funds available will likely force educators to continue being more frugal and innovative in their ways. When we are forced to find new and alternative methods that are cheaper and more accessible, the opportunities are limitless. Technology is opening more doors. And most new online technology is free. Take advantage of the new resources.
6. Curriculum/administrators - added pressure prevents any real change - When teachers feel as if they can't breathe because of curricular/administrative pressures, they will ultimately lose the fire and passion that pushed them into education. Because we (for the most part) can't control these outside influences, we need to put on our creative hats. Take this opportunity to do something you may not feel necessary in a way that interests you and your students. When we go in with an open mind, there’s so much that is possible.
Though these problems may vary in severity, they are quite prevalent in schools. If they're present in your school or classroom, you may want to give one of the solutions a try.
Justin is currently the Director of Curriculum & Support Services in the Union R-XI School District in Union, Missouri. Prior to that, he was Principal and Assistant Principal at Poplar Bluff Junior High School in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and before that he was a high school German teacher. Justin is very active on Twitter (@justintarte) and is the author of one of the most read education blogs in the world, Life of an Educator (justintarte.com). Justin is excited about integrating technology and social media into the educational setting, while increasing collaboration and transparency among all stakeholders.