7 Skill Gaps Teachers are Worried About This Year

Congratulations, you survived the back-to-school frenzy! Your classroom is organized, the bulletin board is up, and student introductions are complete.

teacher helping students overcome challenges

A new reality soon sinks in; how on earth are you going to get through the entire school year?

Once the excitement of the new school year fizzles out, you’re going to face the very real challenges of today’s classroom. These challenges require you to be at the top of your game and the very best for your students. Not only do you need to get through the entire curricula, but you still need to keep your class engaged, motivated, and performing to their full potential. Do you know which additional skills you’ll need in order to face these challenges and succeed?

We spoke to the professional development team at PCG Education about the challenges teachers are facing this school year and which skills they need to overcome them.

Here are PCG Education’s seven most-talked about teaching challenges and the professional skills teachers need to be successful:

1. Teaching to a more diverse class of students

Meeting the learning needs and expectations for every student takes a lot of time and attention you might not have, particularly in larger classrooms where the range includes everything from accelerated learners to those on IEPs. In modern classrooms, adapting your teaching style to reach every student in the way that works best for them can be frustrating - especially when you’re also trying to improve outcomes or meet standards.

Meeting the learning needs and expectations for every student takes a lot of time and attention you might not have

What you need: Skills to implement differentiated instruction

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel: Simple adaptations to your established practices like lesson planning, independent practice time, and inquiry-based learning can effectively enable differentiated instruction. Use the tools you already have and add some core differentiation strategies to the mix.

Get help: Differentiated Teaching and Instruction: What, How, Why?

2. Supporting more English language learners

If you’re like most teachers tasked with integrating English learners into a traditional standards-based learning path, you’re worried about 2 things: Are my ELs making adequate yearly progress and am I doing enough to help narrow or close the achievement gap? Differentiating instruction for ELs requires specific supports and strategies that most generalists struggle to implement effectively - if you even know where to start!

What you need: Approaches to guide and scaffold EL’s

Teachers need different and specific strategies to help English learners succeed. ELs need additional guidance to scaffold thinking, apply knowledge, and look at content in critical and creative ways.

Get help: Pedagogical Strategies for English Learners

teacher engaging student learning

3. Making students feel engaged and significant

180 days a year, whether you know it or not, you’re a relationship manager tasked with building and fostering effective teacher/student and student/student interaction in support of “educating the whole child.” Doing this effectively is a major challenge - especially in the modern, diverse classroom. The struggle to foster meaningful relationships that improve outcomes and reduce behavior issues is a constant battle - but you know it produces incredible results.

What you need: Roadmap to create a responsive classroom

Understanding diverse students’ personal and communal cultures, and using that understanding to cultivate meaningful, responsive relationships, can be more easily achieved with a positive, goal-oriented framework for motivating and engaging your students. The key is developing not just a classroom culture, but also a reflective practice for yourself that helps you continually identify and implement changes to your teaching style.

Get help: Relationally Responsive Classroom Management

4. Giving students the language skills for academic success and assessment

You probably hear it said regularly in your own school or district that students going on to higher grades, where subject matter is more complex, lack some of the language skills necessary to process high-level concepts and ideas. You do the best you can to make your students ready for this transition. But the problem persists, and you’re often hamstrung by an ineffective curriculum, the range of students in your class, and the lack of time to focus on this critical issue.

What you need: Practical techniques to build academic language skills

Effective instruction of academic language seems daunting - but building it into your daily routine is easier when you have the skills and tools to incorporate it effectively. Adapting your teaching to include academic language into independent and group practice, delivery of assessment, and lesson planning is a great way to start.

Get help: Building Academic Language

5. Helping students who are struggling to find success

RTI almost universally provokes shudders and worry from classroom teachers - not because you don’t want your struggling learners to succeed, but because the strategies commonly implemented are complicated, opaque, and time-consuming for already-overloaded generalists. The last thing any teacher needs is another generic process layered onto a complex classroom, especially if you’re evaluated on outcomes and measured against standards.

Clear, logical, and effective RTI begins with collaboration

What you need: Systematic ways to identify student needs and provide targeted interventions

Clear, logical, and effective RTI begins with collaboration between generalists, special educators, specialists, and parents. Building a professional learning community in your school or district is the first step in creating a foundation for RTI that works for you and your students.

Get help: Pyramid Response to Intervention

6. Getting students to really THINK

Learning is most effective when students know how to think critically, deeply, and collaboratively - when they are doing things together, and talking through and about what they learn with each other. Sounds great, right? It’s what most teachers aspire to - making that kind of impact is why you get out of bed in the morning. It’s also very, very difficult to do. Too many time constraints, not enough support, and “teaching to the test” are just a few of the blockers that keep this level of learning an inspiration and not reality.

What you need: Practices you can use to develop thinking skills

The good news is that there are effective, easy-to-implement ways to turn your classroom into a “talk environment” that enables students to build these critical skills for classroom, college, and career without completely reinventing the way you teach and relate with your kids.

Get help: Making Student Thinking Visible

7. Unlocking the secrets of teachers who seem to know what they’re doing

Who are your role models and mentors? What secrets and techniques have you learned from them that have helped you become a better teacher? Do you know where to find and leverage the support you need to be a better instructor? Making learning personal for every student in your class is an instructional challenge that requires effective mentors, and there are far too few of them available.

What you need: An introduction to instructional coaching

Learning the types of supports available for instructional coaching will not only improve your teaching, it will help you help other teachers and give you skills that can enhance your career growth in an important and emerging area of education.

Get help: Effective Coaching to Strengthen Instruction

Most of these challenges are being driven by changes in student populations, resources and the importance of established and emerging standards, so it’s not likely they will fade away. In fact, many of these challenges will grow in coming years. Get ahead of things and consider taking professional development into your own hands. Look for tools and guides, take a course, or tell your school what PD you specifically need to be effective.

What challenges are you facing this year? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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