Why work as a teacher today? There are, of course, all of the traditional reasons—you get to promote a love of learning, shape the minds of tomorrow, become involved in a close-knit community, enjoy stability and enviable work conditions, and know that no two days will ever be the same. However, there are also other compelling reasons to teach—reasons unique to our particular historical moment. That’s why we’ve brought together five challenges facing the modern education sector, along with reasons that solving them will be a rewarding endeavour.
2017 marked the tenth anniversary of the first iPhone, Facebook’s thirteenth birthday, and a milestone for Snapchat, which announced that it had amassed 166 million active daily users. The rise of social media and smartphones has transformed the cultural and technological landscape with unprecedented speed. At the same time, computing power continues to increase, while breakthroughs in fields such as automotive design and genetics have revealed promising paths for researchers.
All of this means that students face a broad array of novel challenges. As a teacher, you’ll need to adapt traditional techniques to the task of helping students prepare, whether that means instilling a healthy relationship with technology or teaching skills like coding.
How best to incorporate technology into the classroom is a contentious issue—there are those who say it has no place at all in schools, and those who argue that children need to be exposed to computers and other devices early on so that they can develop critical skills and healthy usage habits.
As with many issues in education, you can’t opt-out of having an opinion when it comes to technology usage. If you do decide to embrace technology, you’ll have to contend with the fact that, while portable devices are great at getting students’ attention, they don’t necessarily transform a dull class into an interesting one. That will require careful consideration on your part of how best to bring traditional pedagogical techniques into the classrooms of today.
There’s no reason to believe that the traditional core subjects, like maths and English, will disappear from school curricula. However, they have been joined recently by new subjects considered vital for future professionals. Chief among these is coding, with some schools introducing young children to code in early primary school. Teachers can also expect to instruct students in digital literacy, communication, global citizenship, and other areas of importance to the modern world.
This isn’t a new challenge, but it deserves to be met with renewed dedication and the latest technologies. How will you respond to students who underperform academically, exhibit signs of a behavioural disorder, or simply have interests that fall outside of the standard curriculum? New answers abound, from connecting to students remotely to offer homework advice outside of school hours to using online tools (like open education courses) to stimulate the curiosity of students with specific interests.
As a teacher, you’ll be an ambassador for a profession that too often doesn’t get the respect it deserves or fails to attract high-achieving students, who tend to see vocational degrees, like law and medicine, as inherently more prestigious. By choosing a career in teaching, you can act in such a way as to make a case for the improved professional status of teachers everywhere.