Along with budget cuts affecting the public school system in America, there’s another issue at hand: demographics.
It’s no secret that the American workforce as a whole – including in schools – is changing.
According to studies by AARP and the Greenway Group, workplace demographics span four generations for the first time in modern history, and the estimated 76 million working Americans who belong to the Baby Boomer generation – a group born between 1946 and1964 – are retiring, or are expected to retire, in the coming years. So who’s filling their shoes?
In educational settings, it’s teachers like Anthony Conwright and Morgan Ward, who belong to the Millenial Generation, which includes nearly 80 million working Americans born between 1982 and 2000.
According to AARP, the percentage of Baby Boomers in the workforce is expected to drop while Millennial workers will grow in numbers. And in the school system, these relatively new teachers have some issues they want to emphasize: technology and the environment.
Morgan Ward is a 26-year-old history teacher in San Diego. After putting in years of student-teaching and substituting for various schools and grade levels throughout the County, Ward is now a sixth- and seventh-grade history teacher at Montgomery Middle School.
She says it’s important for the environment to play a role in her lessons, but looking back on this year, she has yet to incorporate any environmental issues.
“I think I will start to make more connections to relevant issues and topics as I continue to develop my curriculum,” she says. “Right now, it can be overwhelming just trying to cover the requirements, so those other real-world issues and connections will come with time, but I’m looking forward to it.”
As far as technology goes, Ward considers the most basic software and resources, such as PowerPoint presentations and the Internet, essential.
“I embed a lot of multimedia in my lessons, which is great for increasing student engagement and comprehension,” she says. “I would love for my students to be able to use technology, instead of just me. For example, a class set of laptops or iPads would be fabulous! The problem is purely expense.”
Anthony Conwright, 26, a middle school teacher at High Tech Middle Media Arts in San Diego, also says technology is essential in his classes.
“I need every student to have a working computer, and I need the latest version of Comic Life, iMovie, and Garage Band,” he says, adding that it’s also important for students to have access to computers and the Internet during after-school hours or outside of campus.
“Computers are the new portable classrooms,” he says. “The Internet can act like a secondary teacher. With Google docs, a teacher can access a student from home and work with the student. And leaving comments on a Google document is much easier than taking home 56 papers.”
Not to mention, it’s more environmentally friendly, which Conwright also says he appreciates.
“I would love to have curriculum that ties the environment into my lessons,” he says. “I see the importance of teaching about environmental issues and sustainability.”
At High Tech Middle, Conwright and his fellow teachers implement project-based learning, which, he says, is simply taking a problem and trying to solve it – and that becomes the project.
Inspired by The Green Schoolhouse Series, Conwright hopes to create an environment-based project for his class in the near future – for example, how to make their school greener.
“That could be the problem,” he says, “and the students design ways to make the school more energy-efficient.”
For environmental- and science-based lesson plans, activities, and ideas, visit the EPA’s Teacher Resources page.