Warning: I will not claim to solve any of the problems listed below! That being said, I think it is important for us to acknowledge the issues that we face so that we can work together to find some solutions. I'd love to hear your struggles, thoughts, and solutions in the comment section below!
1. Refusal to read outside of class. Between the shortcuts of online summaries and the incredibly busy schedules kept by many of today's teens, it is not surprising that English teachers are struggling to get students to read outside of class. So what do we do?
- Do we start reading during class time? What will be the impact on curriculum and timing? What will be the long-term impact on creating authentic readers?
- Do we start daily reading quizzes and other assessments that make it difficult to pass our classes without completing the reading? Does that value comprehension over critical thinking? Is it possible/feasible to assess true reading over summary reading?
2. Lack of parent support. This problem is not specific to English teachers, but it impacts us as much as anyone. It is incredibly hard to teach growth in the process of critical thinking and writing when some parents and students are obsessed with grades and refuse to accept teachers' advice and criticism. How do we address parent support?
- Do we actively recruit parent allies? If so, how? Does it have to be a bigger effort on the part of our schools and districts?
- Do we work directly with students to improve accountability without parent intervention? Is it a recipe for disaster to try to work around parents?
3. Plagiarism. The internet has such power to support critical thinkers and writers, but it also allows for a myriad of writing short cuts and academic dishonesty. How do we empower students to use the internet as a research tool and not as a vehicle for plagiarism?
- Do we limit or shelter their internet use? What will happen when they get into college and life without those limits? Would that be a disservice?
- Do we buy into plagiarism detection sites and software like Turnitin and Grammarly? Can our strained school budgets afford them?
4. Current teacher time models. With growing class sizes and demands of teacher time, how can we not struggle to meaningfully assess so many students in a meager prep period that is also full of IEP meetings, broken copy machines, planning, parent emails and a million other teacher tasks?
- Is there any way to change the system so that teachers have more time for grading assessments and giving meaningful feedback? Will independent study and online classrooms release some of this pressure?
- Would flipping the classroom be the answer or at least part of the answer in a traditional classroom setting?
5. An over-emphasis on testing. Personally, I think that most of the ELA standards are well conceived and academically appropriate. The problem of over-testing is another issue in my opinion. When teachers and students are pressured to do well on tests or face consequences in job retention, college admission, and other important aspects of their lives, it is no wonder that we go into survival mode and test prep takes an overbearing part in our classrooms.
- What is the role of opting out of testing? Will that teach students effective activism or avoidance of the uncomfortable?
- Is there a way to help students prepare for these tests without compromising other important parts of our curriculum?
Are these the 5 most significant problems you face or are there others more prominent? What solutions have you found or do you plan to experiment with? Please share below.