The importance of teachers can never be underestimated. Their noble profession is responsible for shaping the character, ability, caliber, and future of a student. With the huge transformation that the education world is undergoing, the role of a teacher is also evolving from that of a traditional teacher to the 21stcentury teacher. Their roles have become more complex and challenging with the changing times. The Covid-19 pandemic has catalyzed this growth and transformation. Teachers have had to go from being mere providers of knowledge to becoming facilitators and guides due to the availability of various sources of knowledge to the students, like the internet and other technological resources.
Due to the rapid progress and advancements in the field of information and technology, which have a direct bearing on the educational/professional world and learning becoming learner-centered, teachers need to adapt on a continuous basis. This can be facilitated through on-going professional development programs, workshops, courses, and trainings.
Some important characteristics of a modern 21st-century teacher responsible for making today’s students future-ready include the following:
Focus on Student-Centered Learning- Nowadays, with information being easily available to students, teachers are not required to spoon-feed information or knowledge to them. Rather, teachers should be facilitators and guides working beside the students to provide support, guidance, and encouragement. They should believe in the uniqueness of each learner and offer personalized instruction based on the learning styles and needs of the learners. Students should be motivated by the teachers to be independent self-regulated learners.
Strong Communication Skills- Communicating effectively with students, parents, co-workers, and all stakeholders for the creation of a positive learning experience is one of the important aspects of teaching. Hence, teachers need to have strong and effective communication skills.
Good Listening- Being an active listener is a very important characteristic of a good teacher. Being a good observer and an active listener helps in understanding the students’ needs and reaching out to them at their level by planning the lessons concurring with the students’ requirements.
Being Empathetic-Being empathetic is essential to connect with the students and understand them. It has a direct impact on students’ learning and behavior.
Patience- Managing behavioral issues of students, dealing with differing views of colleagues and parents, communicating difficult issues to parents and other stakeholders, and other such activities require the teachers to be patient. Modern day stress, competition, exposure to violence through easy accessibility of audio-visual tools, and other such factors have resulted in the increase of rudeness levels, argumentation, and disobedience in students. Teachers can handle these challenges through patience and application of effective strategies.
Creating a Positive Environment- The onus of establishing a supportive and positive learning environment in which students feel safe, happy, and interested to learn, lies with the teacher. To do so, they need to make appropriate plans and arrangements in the classroom that provides support and accessibility to all students including those with special needs. Evaluation and implementation of effective classroom management techniques, use of procedures and routines to maximize instructional time, fostering cooperation between students, and encouraging intrinsic motivation in students towards learning are some of the core requisites of being a good and capable teacher.
Be Global- Today’s teachers are responsible in preparing the students to be global citizens who are required to think and act globally. They need to connect learning with real-life examples and instances from across the world, instead of just examples from immediate surroundings and daily experiences. Teachers should also develop students’ sensitivity towards cultural, social, and other differences to equip them to adapt to multi-cultural and diverse environments in their future work-life. To be able to do this, teachers themselves must think and act globally.
Technical and Digital Competency- The education world is revolutionized with the integration of technology, resulting in the betterment of pedagogical practices. Teachers need to upgrade their technical and digital skills on a continuous basis to keep up with the rapid advancements in this area.
Be Innovativeand Creative - Using innovative techniques and strategies for teaching-learning fuels a student’s interest, which is the most efficient tool in retaining any knowledge gained by them in the learning process. Planning hands-on activities, replacing textbooks with other web-resources for certain topics, projects, quizzes, learning through games, etc., all aid in making the learning process positive and interesting.
Adaptable and Flexible- As the work environment is constantly evolving in educational institutions, teachers need to change their teaching methods and strategies depending on the available resources, changing curriculums and other requirements. They must keep careful track of who their students are over time, of new research, and of trends, as well as have the ability to improve continuously.
Focus on Collaboration- Working in the domain of education requires one to focus on collaboration with other stakeholders, including not only students but also their parents, along with other staff members and the leadership team. Teachers must work effectively in a group, which entails being collaborative and being able to resolve conflicts positively.
Be Engaging- For learning to be effective, teachers need to keep the students engaged in the learning process. They can achieve this by adopting various learning approaches including, but not limited to, enquiry-based, experiential, and project-based learning. This leads to students becoming active learners taking ownership of their learning.
Connect Beyond Classrooms- Teachers can connect with like-minded people or with professionals of the same field to enhance their knowledge in the field. Sharing of ideas, pedagogies, strategies, tools, and techniques will help enrich their experiences. Advice and tips from experts will aid in their personal and professional growth as teachers. They can even create opportunities for students to meet and directly interact with real-life professionals and experts, which will have a lasting impact on the students’ learning.
In conclusion, it can be said that the teachers of today are in a transition phase because of major and rapid technological advances and changing values of students. 21stcentury teachers have the responsibility of creating 21stcentury students with all the necessary skills of creative thinking, collaboration, effective communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, and team building. To be a successful teacher, they need content mastery as well as integration of technology with teaching. Regular upgradation of skills to meet the new requirements due to the on-going process of transformation in education is a necessity for the teachers. They need to be life-long learners to be good teachers. Participating in professional development courses, trainings, and programs will expand their knowledge/skills, which is the key to expanding that of their students.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.