Teaching in the ’90s vs. Teaching in 2020: How the Times Have Changed

Teaching in the '90s vs. Teaching in 2020: How the Times Have Changed

School has certainly changed a lot in the last 30 years. As we prepare to take on all the challenges and changes of a brand new decade, let’s take a look back to see just how far we’ve come since those funky, fresh ’90s.

1. Lingo


In the ’90s: Teachers have always tried to blend in a few current phrases to make themselves feel relevant and for the most part, we fail miserably. Back in the ’90s, there was always that one teacher walking the halls telling kids that his fly new ride was totally radical. And students would likely roll their eyes and keep on walking.

In 2020: These days if you want to stay in the know, you better be ready to spill some tea to see who’s throwing shade and who is getting a little salty because bae is no longer #lifegoals and it may be time to yeet and move on. If you just understood even half of that sentence, you’re already ahead of most of us.

2. Parent-Teacher Conferences

What is my child doing wrong vs. What is the teacher doing wrong?

In the ’90s: Back in the day, most parent-teacher conferences were a way for teachers to let parents know that their child was dropping the ball. That’s normally when the child gets that “Uh-oh” look on their face and parents give their kid the evil death glare and make sure they get their act together.

In 2020: These days, parent-teacher conferences are a way for parents to let teachers know that they are dropping the ball. That’s normally when the teacher gets that “Uh-oh” look on their face and parents give teachers the evil death glare and try to tell them how they need to get their act together.

Similar… and yet so very different.

3. Fashion

In the ’90s: Fighting with kids to follow dress code is a tale as old as time. In the 90s, teachers constantly had to remind boys to pull their pants up since for some inexplicable reason it was considered cool to walk around with clothing 7 sizes too big.

In 2020: Today, we’ve all learned to keep our pants up where they belong, but there’s a new epidemic sweeping schools in the form of hoodies. Some schools have straight up banned them, others have to deal with students slowly sinking into their hoodies until they look like a walking pile of laundry.

4. Technology

In the ’90s: Teachers had it rough 30 years ago. When we wanted to show pictures to our students we had to drag the overhead projector out of storage, fire up its 2,000-degree lamp and hope you didn’t burn your retinas staring at it. And if you wanted to show a video you had to wheel in “the TV” (because every school only had one). 

In 2020: Technology (when it works) has become a teacher’s best friend. You are always connected to the information superhighway and smart boards keep getting smarter and smarter. You need educational videos? We got every educational video ever. You need interactive games? We have all off them too!

5. Students’ rewards

In the ’90s: Back then, if you were the teacher’s pet you got to clap the erasers outside at the end of the day. A few minutes of escape from classroom boredom and a breath of precious fresh air.

In 2020: Today, the last thing kids seem to want is fresh air. If you want to reward a kid these days, you better carry a bag of organic candy or give them some extra game time on the computer. 


6. Science experiments

In the ’90s: We were all so easily impressed 30 years ago. Cutting open a frog or combining baking soda with a little vinegar was all it took to grab student’s attention back then.

In 2020: These days, if you want to grab a student’s attention, you’re fighting an uphill battle. You better bring your A-game in the Science classroom. Even sure-fire winners like Diet Coke and Mentos are passed these days. If it doesn’t involve an explosion, augmented reality, or something they can eat, they probably won’t be impressed.

7. Math word problems

In the ’90s: Getting kids interested in solving word problems has always been a challenge. That’s why back in the day we made word problems relatable. If Johnny’s weekly allowance is $25, and he already bought $7 worth of Pogs, does he have enough to buy 3 cassettes at $5 each?

In 2020: Sadly, some of today’s word problems need a lot of updating. You try explaining to your Middle Schoolers why the child in this problem is buying 1,000 “minutes” for her cell phone plan. Then watch them recoil in horror when the next problem involves text messages that cost $.10 each!

8. Making copies


In the ’90s: Making copies in the ’90s was a chore. Some of us were still using the ol’ reliable mimeograph machine. Sure the copies were just one color and almost too blurry to read, but kids sure loved smelling that ink. Then the machine would break and teachers would lose their minds.

In 2020: Today’s schools bring in huge copy machines that can do it all. Staple, collate, print on both sides… it’s amazing. Of course, learning how to do all those things takes a degree in Advanced Physics. And even then the machine breaks and teachers lose their minds.

See, not everything has changed in 30 years.

Check out this video: Hilarious Short Film Shows Sad Reality Teachers Actually Have to Deal With

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David Rode

Dave is a middle school math teacher. He's also a musician, a community theater, dad to two amazing children, and he doesn't get a lot of sleep.

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