The highest calling of today's education system is to equip students with the characteristics and skills needed to navigate the ever-changing 21st century global economy as adults. We talk a lot about how to engage studentsand make them better learners, but how often do we step back and consider how to make better educators? The success of our students and the effectiveness of the education system as a whole starts and ends with the teacher.
So what might an effective 21st century educator look like? eSchool News recently polled its readers and came up with five characteristics that the most effective educators have in common. Here’s what you can do to emulate them:
- Be forward thinking.The 21st century educator must have a broader vision, anticipating and adapting to trends, not only in education, but technology and science as well. Our teachers are tasked with preparing students, not for the world as it exists today, but for the one they will someday inherit.
- Be an eager learner.Technology has become a fundamental part of our students' daily experience, both in and out of the classroom. Educators operating in such a rapidly evolving technological climate simply must be willing to learn to effectively teach. The phrase "lead by example" comes to mind. If we want our students to be inquisitive, open-minded and willing to learn from making mistakes, so must be our teachers.
- Be a builder of relationships.Today's students are more likely to gauge their number of friends on Facebook than by who sits with them at the lunch table. In such a world of technological isolation, where it's possible to go through an entire day without real human interaction, we must facilitate interpersonal relationships within the classroom while prioritizing communication, respect and cooperation.
- Be equipped to teach all levels of learners.As effective 21st century educators, we not only need to be armed with the same characteristics and skills we plan to impart on our students, we must also have the ability to teach those characteristics and skills to every student at every level in the classroom. This includes the ability to effectively relate to students and teach to their unique learning styles.
- Be able to implement technology effectively.Enhancing the educational environment with technology can facilitate faster learning and streamline teacher tasks, such as grading, planning and presenting lessons, but simply putting a computer in front of your students isn't enough. Technology can just as easily be distracting or unproductive. An effective 21st century educator will have the discernment and know-how to incorporate technology into the classroom in a way that facilitates, rather than distracts from, teaching and learning.
As educators working under pressure to maximize student performance, we sometimes focus all of our time and energy on developing curriculum, planning and implementing lessons, and accessing our students' skill level at the expense of our own ongoing education. If we take the time to foster the characteristics necessary to be an effective educator in ourselves and our peers, our students will ultimately benefit.