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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.