Teaching a classroom full of children is challenging in itself. Throw in smart phones, computers and tablets, and it makes it almost impossible. It’s useful for teachers to know how to un-plug from these modern technologies that may do more harm than good, and how to get back to classroom learning basics.

The Unique Challenges Faced by Modern Teachers

Lesson plans written out on paper and completed by taking class notes and worksheets are not the staple in learning today. Kids are distracted my cell phones, smart watches, tablets, and portable video games that are easy to hide in classrooms. While this technology isn’t solely to blame, it causes teachers to struggle in keeping the attention of their students.

On top of that, with these handheld devices, these young minds have unlimited, easy access to tragic current events that may be inappropriate or scarring to some. With social media and the anonymity the internet brings, children may be exposed to online bullying which leads to far bigger issues in their coming-of-age years and could affect them even in adulthood.

Managing Personal Devices in the Classroom

Before you can teach and students can learn, you have to set ground rules and manage the classroom.

First, make set rules of using mobile and electronic devices in the classroom. If after someone get caught twice or three times on their cellphone during class, let it be known that you will confiscate it for the day. Incorporating electronics during certain lesson plans isn’t a bad thing. In fact, there are benefits of incorporating certain educational games to teach students with different learning styles, such as computer programs or online puzzles. However, it’s all useful in modern and with structure by you, the teacher. Letting kids scroll through their Twitter or Instagram feed isn’t at all beneficial to them learning but incorporating a modern version of a “pen pal” is! Check out more techniques for incorporating social media into the classroom.

Teaching Fairly and Creating an Equitable Classroom Environment

As discussed, not every student’s learning style is the same. That’s why it’s worth taking time to get to know your children. In terms of managing a classroom outside of electronics, Kathleen Gould Lundy provides the tip of not waiting for everyone to be listening before you begin in her 25 tips for classroom management. The key here is to make your introduction of the topic/project you’re trying to explain interesting and upbeat, so it naturally catches the attention of your students. With that, she says to hand out materials after giving the directions to limit distractions. Having materials such as personal staplers in front of children is only asking for their attention to be elsewhere.

A simple way to make your classroom fair is to limit the amount of competition. Instead of making kids feel like they have to work against each other, encourage them to work with their peers to solve an issue. This lesson will be useful when applied for years to come, and even adulthood.

There is uneven playing level when you allow personal electronics into the classroom. Not all children have the same luxuries as other kids, which may lead to kids feeling lesser than or can unfortunately provoke an influx of teasing. Setting boundaries and making room for note-taking and written assignments, along with incorporating basic classroom necessities for all children such as pencil sharpeners, are ways to create leveled opportunities for all students. Remind kids the value of physical classroom supplies like a journal and dictionary, rather than Google.

Dealing with Political Bullying

Bullying of any kind is unacceptable and should be stopped. Though, political bullying in particular is a type that has taken schools by storm, “especially among ethnic, racial and linguistic minorities, children with disabilities, and LGBTQ youth,” reports the Iowa Bullying Prevention Council. Their written resource for teachers reads that only 36 percent of bullying is reported to educators. It’s important to let students know that you’re always available to talk to and ensure them that you will do something about it, proving you, the teacher, are helpful and resourceful.

What steps should you take when bullying is reported? The Iowa Bullying Prevention Council says you should stop the bullying on the spot by telling the student that those words or attitude is not acceptable. Support the victim and validate their feelings. Remind both students of the expected positive behavior. It’s important to follow through with reporting the incident so proper consequences are sought out in the future by your school or organization. Be aware that future bullying may occur and take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen. Lastly, stay firm and be clear in your words. You are the student’s example, and what you say should have power and meaning.

Bringing your classroom together as a whole to building a sense of community and common ground not only invites your students to welcome one another, but also provides the opportunity for each person to understand they may not be as different as their neighbor as they first thought.

Teaching After Tragedy

Another real issue of teaching in the modern age is all of the tragic events happening worldwide. It seems as if heartbreaking and dangerous news happens every day, and it can take a toll on developing minds.

Indiana University Bloomington’s Center for Innovative Teacher and Learning says it’s best to address a tragic event in class rather than skipping over it altogether since this can help students cope with the news and focus on classwork. However, it’s important how you talk about it to your students; “Students can find a total lack of response from their instructors frustrating and disappointing. Furthermore, many students find it unhelpful for an instructor to say that the ‘class has to go on’ or that ‘there is nothing we can do’ without offering additional comment.”

Most importantly, talk about the safety concerns. Girl at desk Child Mind Institute suggests reassuring students about their own safety and to encourage them to ask questions. While mass tragedies are more common in today’s media, an event such as a fire could make students anxious. Explaining what to do in various situations could calm their nerves, or at the very least, make them aware and prepared.

It’s best to be sensitive, patient, and clear when talking about emotional events. These raw, sensitive topics can easily be turned into teaching moments that are real takeaways for all students. Treating others with kindness and understanding is a valuable lesson that not only is encouraged morally but is what helps others work through such events.

Conclusion: Turning Real-World Disruptions into Teaching Moments

Every classroom distraction or media event features a lesson that should be taught. Whether it’s electronics, bullying or tragic events, there is new information to be shared with young minds. As an educator, try your best to connect with your students on a personal level by sharing your real-life stories. Better yet, connect it to relevant course material that can help students further understand the importance of what they’re learning.

You are a student’s mentor in many areas of the modern-day classroom. You may be faced with a new gadget or sore-subject to discuss every day, but the key is to manage it all with your class’ best interest at heart.

What’s the biggest struggle you’ve faced as a teacher? Share your tips on teaching in the modern world below!

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