Commentary: How students and teachers are adapting to the changing environment in today’s schools

Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Commentary: How students and teachers are adapting to the changing environment in today’s schools
April 24
13:16 2019

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

People get a bit queasy whenever the issues of school discipline and policies are brought up. It is a touchy subject and we have different views and, of course, have multiple recommendations.

It is not debatable that teachers have a tough job in today’s schools. That is one reason you don’t see a lot of college students majoring in education. Most of them think about their own school experience and just don’t see teaching as a viable career.

Teachers aren’t paid enough to endure challenging children and their parents. If you had to endure a steady diet of mischief and lack of financial compensation, would you want to be a teacher? I know what your answer would probably be.

That should not be how the story ends. I was a high school history and government teacher in an urban city many years ago. In addition, I served as a senior class advisor and the tennis coach.

Did I enjoy my teaching experience? Absolutely! It was wonderful and provided a great foundation for me. I had the support of the administration, teaching colleagues, and the parents of my students.

All the teachers at my school were there because of their love for teaching and they wanted to assist students in becoming successful. Our administration gave us the tools and the resources to excel in our jobs. We were evaluated regularly, and we were all licensed teachers.

Just as important was that we had the support of parents. They did not come to the school and rail against what we were doing. They did not make a scene and cause confusion. It is my opinion that civility occurred at schools because most students had stable home environments. Students had home training (H.T.) and when they came to school, it carried over.

Things have changed in public schools today. More students are getting suspended and expelled. Guns have replaced protractors and rulers. Coarse language is the calling card too many students use with teachers today.

PTA groups for the most part are a thing of the past. Attendance at parent\teacher conferences is low. Students don’t take report cards home anymore because parents must come and get them. When fights break out, the police are called and arrests are made.

While it is sad to say, teachers have changed. First off, too many uncertified teachers are in classrooms. Would you let an unlicensed surgeon operate on you? Of course not! Then why do we allow uncertified teachers to provide instruction for our children and grandchildren? A lot of teachers stay for three or four years in order to have their student loans forgiven. That would be unthinkable back in the day because we had committed teachers.

Teachers were respected members of the community. Not so much now. Back then, they spoke a certain way and dressed professionally; the same can’t be said for all teachers today.

Some education experts would suggest what happens in schools today is some reflection on what happens at home. Is that a valid point?

Sophie B. Wright Charter School in New Orleans, Louisiana, had approximately 30 students suspended for a senior prank they pulled at school. The school administration gave them ample warning about the consequences. Now they can’t go to the prom or march at graduation exercises. Their parents and many in the community are upset. The decision is being appealed and the outcome is to be determined.

Stay tuned.

James B. Ewers Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years.  He is a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at

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