The 8 Characteristics Of A 21st Century Teacher

Some call them ‘connected educators’ while other use the phrase ‘digital teacher’ and many prefer the term ’21st century teacher.’ Whatever terms you use to describe modern teachers, it’s important to know what the terms actually mean. There’s a fabulous wiki devoted to just this topic here which houses some incredible bits of information. It’s by Andrew Churches who has curated quite a treasure trove of useful information for any teacher looking to outline what he or she actually does as a modern educator.

See Also: The 10 Skills Modern Teachers Must Have

So what are the 8 characteristics of a 21st century teacher? Are they risk-takers, collaborators, and visionaries? Well, yes! Check out the image below to get a clearer picture.

21st century teacherSo does this mean a 21st century teacher must embody every single one of these characteristics in order to be considered for the lofty and esteemed title? Not really. In my opinion, you should understand, internalize, and be able to exemplify any of these skills at any time. However, you don’t need to constantly be all of the characteristics. For example, you don’t need to constantly be Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Sir Ken Robinson, a 4th grade student, and the Secretary of State all at once.

Man, that’d be exhausting.

What you do need to do, though, is be able to pull from experience and be a leader, a collaborator, a communicator at a moment’s notice. That’s what (to me) a 21st century teacher does. They adapt (hey that’s one of the characteristics above!) to their surroundings and can quickly figure out how to properly integrate something into their classroom. Whether it’s technology, some professional development, a flipped learning model, or something they learned at ISTE about Twitter, it’s all useful stuff.

The key is to be able to figure out how every single one of the  new skills and tools works for you. If it doesn’t, then don’t force yourself into it. For example, you don’t have to flip your classroom if you know the students (or you) won’t get much out of it or the subject matter wouldn’t lend itself to flipping.

What other characteristics would you name? Are there any missing from this spider chart?


  1. Dawn Salter

    April 13, 2013 at 8:03 am

    I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the 8 characteristics of modern teachers coincide with Howard Gardiner’s theories on Multiple Intelligence. Today and Tomorrow’s Teacher needs to tap into universal instructional learning techniques to ensure they can meet the ever changing needs of the diverse learners. Teachers can never stop learning.

  2. Esme

    April 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    Sense of humour
    Organisation skills
    Knowledge of websites

  3. Victor Barros

    April 13, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    I would add be present inside the resources that can be used to better education.

  4. Sulochana Rajulu

    April 16, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    I am sure most of the teachers do possess these characteristics. They are exhibiting them as and when the need arises almost on everyday basis. Probably they are not making it very evident that they have exhibited these characteristics. Its but natural that a classroom situation will demand a package of all these characteristics to be effective. But I agree a conscious effort from the teachers side will make learning more meaningful.

  5. Elizabeth Clarke

    April 20, 2013 at 7:34 am

    These are spot-on and fabulous, but lack the human element we elementary teachers deal with as well. Not sure what to call it, but I’m also The Keeper of the Band-Aids, The Catcher of Spiders, The Hugger of Heart-Hurts, and the One Who Says,”Well, Dude, tomorrow’s another day.” when things go badly.Throw that in with The Cheerleader and The One Constant (in some of their lives).
    The trick, of course, is knowing when to be which… :)

  6. Mike

    April 20, 2013 at 8:53 am

    The Learner
    The Curator
    The Get-out-of-the-way-er

  7. Tayo Jimoh Olajumoke

    April 23, 2013 at 2:55 am

    Its quite interesting to find out dis site,a very educative one,am sure the characteristics will go a long way in helping achieve my dreams as a 21st century teacher.This makes shoulder high again.Am proud to be a teacher,its worthwhile………

  8. richardigp

    April 24, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Ultimately a teacher is creating a learning environment. There are any number of teachers in the world, finding a teacher is easy. What is really difficult is finding those who create learning environments that stimulate and inspire every level of individual learning aptitude to reach their potential. There isn’t a lot of theory in this, just passion linked with all those blocks above. Unlike every other career, real teaching is not a job. I love Elizabeth’s pragmatic personalized “learner-hugging” examples which makes teaching the ultimate achievement of humanity. It’s not about just elementary teachers. I work with academic/life failures and ultimately it is about wanting to create an environment where people/humans/kids/adults learn they can learn and love doing it.