Wednesday, June 26, 2013

21st Century Teachers

Everyone is talking about 21st century teaching, which is good considering we are 13 years into the 21st century.  What I find, unfortunately, is for every single amazing idea there are at least two bad ideas that represent that many people even decision-makers are confused by what 21st century teaching actually is.

Since locking down a definition for 21st century teaching will be difficult and cause for debate, it is easier to list what you will find in a 21st century teacher.  I'm going to break this into two lists because there is a developing trend to only focus on the student and their relationship to 21st century learning.  When it comes to learning there are usually two players, teacher and student.  The teacher is just as vital to this discussion and their relationship to 21st century learning.  For now let's just focus on the 21st century teacher.
[Note: When it comes to 21st century education systems there are at least three players: 21st century student, teacher, and administrator.]

Here's are qualities and features that describe a 21st century teacher.
  1. Lifetime learner - enthusiastic about continuing education opportunities and advancing their knowledge base in their subject matter and educational theory.
  2. Condensed course load - 21st century teaching is a lot of work and requires significant preparation and continuous dialogue with students.  Teachers of the 20th century were bogged down with many preps and sometimes 6 classes a day, this isn't feasible for 21st century teachers.  A course load of 4 classes and 2-3 preps max are necessary.  This can be challenging because many unions and administrations are stuck in a 20th century operational mindset.  These are the standard challenges were hear in the daily news all over the country.
  3. You will find 21st century teachers in classes with less than 20 students (15 and less per teacher preferable).  This doesn't imply that classes need to be less than 20 but that when there are more than 20 you need to have a second teacher in the classroom. 
  4. A 21st century teacher is a master of their subject.
  5. They are also not scared or intimidated by new technologies; they approach them with open minds and assess the value it adds or takes away from a classroom.  They are responsible enough to know when to say something will be used or not used within their classroom and back it up with defensible reasons.
  6. A 21st century teacher has the control of a maestro so much so that it seems like there is absolute freedom within the classroom.  This is a good point because many interpret the 21st century teaching method as "all goes", no time to wait, technology changing to quickly for theory and analysis.  This is false.  There is no reason why we should not continue referencing contemporary learning theories and implementing proper experimental methods with data collection and analysis.  The theories exist and are connectible.
  7. A 21st century teacher is a master of time.  Time invested in planning and practice pay off in dividends, this will not change.
  8. A 21st century teacher knows exactly the days they will be teaching their students and has a master plan prior to the start of their course, very similar to how college professors operate.  This requires the cooperation of their schools administration in guaranteeing academic time.  Administrations would be best referencing college models where students are expected to always attend classes on a normal frequency yet are deeply involved in their school community outside of class.  Balance, inclusion in decisions, and respect works best here for developing academic scheduling.
  9. [Updates] Here's a good one that was sent to me.  21st century teachers have taken an online class and either teach an online class or utilize online class management software in their classroom.

Think about it.
  1. Can you develop a definition for a 21st century teacher now that you have seen some of the qualities that describe them?
  2. How about the relationship between technology and a 21st century teacher?  Many times the noise surrounding technology and what is allowed or is not sometimes overtakes the real discussion on 21st century teaching.
Let's continue adding more to this list.  Think you have something that belongs here, let me know through comments or email.  Can you develop a definition for 21st century teacher now that you've seen some of the qualities that describe them?

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