From Whiteboards to Lockdown Drills, Here’s What Has Changed Since I Was in Elementary School

My son starts second grade in the fall, and for the school year, he is given his very own iPad that he’ll get to take home with him – he will be fully set up to receive any information he wants in an instant. The way he is learning is certainly different from when I was a kid, and it makes me both excited and scared. It’s exciting that the world is seemingly at his fingertips; however, it’s also scary because it’s all so foreign to me, and it’s hard for me to keep up.

As a child, my family owned a full set of Encyclopedia Brittanicas that were neatly placed on our bookshelf. If I wanted to know the answer to anything, my parents would point to the large encyclopedias and tell me to find out for myself. And so I would. Lifting the heavy books onto my desk, I would flip through the pages until I found my answer. If I wanted more details, I would have my parents take me to the library, where unchartered worlds were waiting to be explored deep inside the pages of books.

Today, my children view books differently. They are not so much filled with information as they are filled with entertainment. If it takes too long to find an answer to their question, they will just ask Google. Times are certainly changing!

From the way math is taught to lunchtime and more, here are six ways education has changed since I was a kid.


Teacher-parent connectedness

When I was a kid, my teachers and parents met face-to-face once a year during the highly anticipated parent-teacher conference.

Today, I receive text messages from my children’s teachers almost daily. I’m given updates on curriculum, special events that are happening, snow days, behavior issues (“Gavin seemed distant today in class”), and much more. It feels great having access to my kids’ teachers at my fingertips and getting real-time updates on how they are progressing. By the time parent-teacher conferences roll around, my husband and I are already well-informed on the kids’ progress and use the meeting to touch-base.



Digital devices

Yes, information is so much easier to come by, but all of this information still needs the guidance of a teacher for proper application. Teaching environments have become more digital as well. Traditional black chalkboards are giving way to interactive whiteboards. These allow teachers the ability to access the internet in front of the class to provide engaging teaching resources that fully engage students’ attention.


Individuality is celebrated

The days of being bullied or ostracized for being different seem to be slowly turning. Though bullying looks different now with the advent of social media, things like individuality, gender equality, and diversity are being embraced by schools and teachers alike. During a time when children are learning who they are and what their interests lie in, inclusivity in schools is a great way to build self-esteem and authenticity.


Less time for lunch

During school, my children are given 30 minutes for lunch. This includes grabbing their lunch boxes and walking to and from the cafeteria. Between settling in and socializing, there is hardly any time to properly eat their lunches. I remember having ample time to socialize and eat my entire lunch with room to spare. When my kids come home with food still in their lunch boxes, I’ll ask them if they didn’t like what I packed them. Sometimes they’ll answer, “I didn’t have time to eat that,” and it is beyond frustrating to hear that.



Lockdown drills

As a child, it was always part of our usual school routine to have fire safety drills. Today, my children now consider lockdown drills as part of their school routine. The first time my son came home to tell me about his school’s lockdown drill (he called it a safety drill), I was shocked. When I asked him what he and his classmates had to do, he told me they had to hide behind the teacher’s desk while she locked the door and placed covers over the windows. They had to stay silent for 10 full minutes as the classroom lights were turned off and they were crouched on the floor with their hands over their heads. Part of me is disgusted that this is the world that we live in; the other part of me is grateful that their school has these measures in place.


Common Core math

When my son began bringing home math homework, I was adamant that he was doing it wrong. That is until I realized that he was being taught math very differently than I learned it. At first glance, Common Core math looks very strange. A simple equation now takes a multitude of steps to complete. Why? According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, this approach helps students understand how and why math problems work — called “number sense” — showing that numbers are just flexible things made up of other numbers and makes solving math problems that much easier.


At the end of the day, I truly believe that education, and all of its various approaches, are so much better than they were when I was a child. My children are so much more well-rounded than I ever was at their age and have a deep compassion for the world around them. This makes me excited for the type of wonderful adults they will grow up to become.