The 10 Skills Modern Teachers Must Have

There’s been a lot of talk recently about what it means to be a learner in the 21st Century. Earlier this year, we put together a guide with skills important for students today. So, why not a list for educators, too? The list goes beyond technology and social media. Check out what skill we think makes a modern teacher, and let us know your thoughts on the matter in the comments below.


Image via flickr and Chicago 2016

Skills for Modern Educators

  1. Engage in Professional Communities: Teachers can sometimes lead a very solitary existence at school—spending all of their time tutoring before and after school and scarfing down lunch in front of the copier or spending their free period, if they’re lucky enough to have one, at their desks while grading papers. But, as professionals, teachers have to know how to learn and grow from participation in professional communities. No one teacher’s experience is universal, so networking with your educator peers is an important way to get great ideas and share your own. Modern teachers engage with each other using a variety of means, including professional development conferences and technology.
  2. Understand How to Use Technology: You don’t have to flip your class or employ 1:1 devices, but you do need to understand how technology works and how it benefits education. Your students are undoubtedly tech-savvy and you should be, too. By understanding at least the basics about useful tech tools, apps, and software, you may begin to discover ways to lighten your workload and better engage your students.
  3. Know Where to Locate Useful Resources: Not to brag, but Edudemic is a great place to start with this one. We’re dedicated to creating great articles that include lots of useful resources. But we’re not the only site out there that is focused on curating great stuff for teachers. You should also check out sites like TeachersPayTeachers, Pinterest, and Edutopia. Make asking about and sharing resources part of your participation in professional communities. And don’t forget to ask your school or community librarian—they’re experts in resource procurement.
  4. Participate in Social Media: In the past, teachers were determined to keep their private lives private, but that’s changed. Teachers are signing up for social media accounts in droves, often for use in the classroom with students or even to communicate with parents. The power of social media is not lost on modern teachers who see the tremendous value in being able to connect instantly with people in both their local and wider global communities.
  5. Develop Great Communication Skills: All of this networking and social media use means teachers today have to be great communicators. Excellent speaking and writing skills are important, whether those skills be used in blogging, vlogging, tweeting, or emailing. If you’re not sure whether your public communication skills are up to par, ask colleagues to edit your work and find templates online for things like back to school letters and weekly class updates.
  6. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”: For the sake of your sanity and for your students’ learning, don’t take on any more committees, councils, or clubs than you’ve already got on your plate, unless you are certain you have the bandwidth. Great teachers get overburdened with extra duties because administrators like to see star educators sharing their expertise with others. It’s hard for teachers, people who are nurturing caregivers, to say no. But when you are stretched thin and can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else, either.
  7. Take Time to Disconnect: In the same way you should learn to say “no” to people, you should also take time to disconnect from your own self-imposed obligations. You don’t have to answer all 50 parent emails tonight, attend a Twitter chat, monitor a Facebook forum, update your blog, and add pictures to Instagram in one night. Teachers already have a lot going on, and when you add staying on top of technology to the mix your time becomes even more limited. Modern teachers are plugged in, but they also need to know when to disconnect. Don’t burn out.
  8. Celebrate Diversity: Students these days are often given a bad rap for being selfish slackers, but as their teacher, you know that children in school today are among the most liberal, open-minded, accepting generation to ever grow up in America. Kids today come from all kinds of family circumstances and identify with all kinds of different racial, ethnic, and gender groups. Modern educators celebrate the diversity of their students’ experiences and use individual differences as a tool for learning about others.
  9. Remain a Life-Long Learner: Let’s face it, the world is changing quickly. Did you ever think you’d see drones, self-driving cars, or 3D printers in your lifetime? Teachers are at the heart of education and learning, and as such need to pursue opportunities to continue to learn and better themselves. It used to be easy to dismiss the idea of participating in educational opportunities by saying you didn’t have enough time. Well, modern teachers don’t have that excuse anymore. Webinars, MOOCs, and online classes have made it possible for teachers to become students whenever and wherever is convenient. So find an online course that sounds interesting and sign up.
  10. Do What You Do Best: While the media and lawmakers may not treat you as such, you are a trained professional. You’ve got a degree in education and you know how to run a class. You know how to identify when students are struggling and you know how to help students enrich their learning. Developing and bettering your practice is always encouraged, as it is with any profession. But don’t feel like you have to jump into whatever’s trendy in technology just to be relevant. Modern teachers know how to balance what they know is best practice with what tools can help them best reach their students.

In Short

However the Essential skills for today’s teachers go far beyond “knowing how to use an iPad” and into the realm of connectedness. Knowing yourself, your students, your colleagues, and your profession make you a modern educator.

Editor’s note: This is a revised version of an article written by Jeff Dunn that originally appeared on March 12th, 2013. We believe this information is still highly relevant, but we wanted to update it with the latest thinking. To do that, we invited writer Amanda Ronan to take the reins.


  1. Robin

    December 29, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks for your post. Looks like I’m completely prepared to be a 21st century teacher!

  2. Nelann Taylor

    December 30, 2015 at 7:05 am

    Great quick read! I’m getting ready to lead a PD (professional development) soon and I’m talking about technology-infused learning, but your article gave me some pointers on how to even change my PD title to sound more intriguing, and hopefully gain the interest of my coworkers!

    • Stephanie Wheat

      January 2, 2016 at 6:16 am


      I would love a copy of your notes and PowerPoint if you are creating one for your PD. My email is

      Stephanie Wheat

  3. Warren Purdy

    January 2, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    Spot on!!

  4. Peter drower

    January 5, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    This needs to be directed towards administrators not teachers alone. Unfortunately admonistrators often have no idea of what they want from their faculty other than a touch of the forelock and a hearty ” Yes Sir”. Rewards systems are the tell which ondicates what skills , attributes and behaviors are valued in a school.

    • Admonistrator

      January 13, 2016 at 6:43 am

      Thanks for placing all admin in one bowl, ‘downer’. I can play with words too!

      Have a great rest of the year!

  5. Andrea W.

    January 6, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    I think it’s powerful for teachers and administrators to gain outside perspective by attending professional development conferences. New Technologies by definition are new, so teachers need the opportunity to be attend professional development. Due to funding, it is wise to send a teacher from a school for training, and then that teacher can train other teachers at the school site. I would suggest that it would be beneficial to have that teacher be the school library teacher. I feel the library is the crossroads of where technology and curriculum meet.

  6. Alamo

    January 6, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    Thanks for the post! Great information and insight on what skills teachers need in today’s classrooms.

    • Andrea W.

      January 10, 2016 at 6:26 pm

      New technologies have changed how teachers can implement instruction and it’s an exciting time to be in education.

  7. Lea

    January 21, 2016 at 6:25 am

    I totally agree with this statement, modern teachers must have AT LEAST these 10 skills! Professional teacher is an example of humanity, kindness and life wisdom. He knows how to engage students in studying process, he gives inspiration and positive vibes. Great teachers are respectful and friendly,they talk to students of any age the same way as they talk to colleagues. Understanding how to use technology is also a huge teacher’s advantage you’ve mentioned above. Old-fashioned educators are no longer exist :) I mean,for sure, we still have professors who use “ancient” teaching methods and techniques (and students love them for their great life experience and natural charm!) but nevertheless, all of them are pro laptop and iPad users :) Since I’ve decided to find extra tutoring job, I have to care about time management more. I started to use some tools I’ve never used before ( is great for managing tasks, is handy for checking essays, is a brilliant tool for daily communication). I’ve realized that I’m much more organized now and I really like it. Moreover, it helped me to engage students and raise their productivity in the classroom.
    I appreciate your article so much, thank you for inspiration. Don’t stop on golden 10, dear teachers, improve your skills!

  8. Kimberley

    January 31, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    I really enjoyed browsing through your blog! One of the points that really impacted me was your point about taking time to disconnect. Technology has taken the teaching world by storm, and forgetting to take time for yourself isn’t smart to do! A burned-out teacher isn’t good for anyone. Great blog!

  9. Kayla

    February 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    This is an absolute wonderful read. As a teacher-in-training, I am always looking at what I need to know or do for my students to achieve in my class. Some of the characteristics you mentioned were common sense; however, some stuck out to me that you don’t really think about until you become a teacher, and then you have to adapt. The one that stood out the most to me is ‘Take Time to Disconnect.’ In a technology based society, we are glue to some type of electronics always, so for us to disconnect from that would be great in the ways to relax and recharge for our classes.

  10. Yanglish

    February 23, 2016 at 8:39 am

    “Participate in Social Media:” Social networks create great opportunities for learning, self-study. In fact, the student may receive individual training from the best teachers. That’s fine.

  11. Angélica

    April 3, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Congratulations, now at days, it´s important the competence of theachers such as skills, strategies, methodology, knowledge, in order to improve the teaching-learning process.