Being a teacher in the 21st century

Molly Begeman, Editor-in-chief

Erie, PA, January 29, 2023—Growing up after 2010 is a lot different from decades before.

Youth today are more access to screens than ever before. From TVs to iPads and laptops in the classroom, to  cellphones and videogames — they are constantly bombarded  by information.

Because of this bombardment, they have had to adapt and learn new skills to survive the media and information overload. One of these skills is media literacy.

With so much fake news nowadays, even adults have trouble determining what is real and what is fake. This causes problems, because fake news gets circulated so quickly that the real story is often not heard.

To offset  this problem, children in classrooms are learning how to differentiate between sources of information and media are  real or fake. Media and information literacy courses are being added to curriculums around the country.

New Jersey Gov,  Phil Murphy, recently signed a law mandating  all public-school teachers in the state be  required to teach media and information literacy to all K-12 students.

This bill’s intention is to decrease the amount of misinformation spreading —  and provide the next generation with critical thinking skills to determine facts from a lie.

This new law has taken effect immediately and provided public-school teachers with a curriculum from the state’s Department of Education. This curriculum implements researching, critical thinking skills, and students understanding facts from opinions and the difference between primary and secondary sources.

All staff and faculty members are expected to help students achieve media literacy.

Teachers outside of New Jersey have begun teaching media literacy and teaching students how to find accurate information on the Internet.

Despite this being an essential skill for young students to learn, especially in the classroom for research and life skills, in the 21st century,  public-school teachers already have enough on their plates.

We all know that public school teachers are notoriously stretched quite thin with resources and time.

They follow an already demanding curriculum, create lesson plans, deliver lessons, energize students to learn, attempt to create a positive and safe learning environment, manage behaviors, attend to at-risk learners and comply other federal and state mandates. They also deal with often overcrowded classrooms, with limited budgets – causing many to pay for classroom necessities out of their pocket. They need to ensure all students meet state requirements, practicing safety drills throughout the year, complete work outside the classroom and take faculty development workshops, trainings, and courses.

Now, we are asking them to do more.

Yes, media literacy is a vital skill everyone should develop in the 21st century. Still, to dump another load on the already overloaded plate of a teacher seems unfair and unsustainable. It is also another learning goal added to students’ load.

Instead of making media literacy another check box on the curriculum for teachers to check off, Instead, let us encourage teachers and parents to work together to help students  learn these valuable skills. At the very least, a new teaching specialization should be brought in the public school system – Media and Information teachers. Dumping another set of standards for classroom teachers to carry out is overwhelming. If schools hired more specialized instructors – classroom teachers would not have to bear the weight of more instruction.

Adding another burden onto teachers is only going to make the teaching profession less appealing and less effective. Educators are vital to our society and students’ learning expectation do need to shift with the times. The investment in this new learning goal is important. Schools need to ensure students get these new skills without overloading teachers.