Sandy Hooda — 5 Defining Characteristics of a 21st Century Teacher
“A guide on the side and not a sage on the stage” is a popular quote that is often used when speaking about teachers of the 21st century. Teachers of today need to break-free from the shackles of the industrial-era style of teaching. They need to evolve. They need to be modern, adaptive, and forward-thinking to equip Generation Alpha or the iGeneration (children born between 2010 and 2025) prepare for the paradigm changes of tomorrow.
The fulcrum of education has always been, and will always be teachers. Teaching in the 21st century is a whole lot different phenomenon from what it was a few decades ago. With children having access to enormous content thanks to lightning-fast technologies anywhere and anytime, the teacher should no longer be a dispenser of content and information. The teacher has to don several hats and transform into an educator, a facilitator, an integrator and above all, a trusted collaborator.
So, what does being a teacher in the 21st century mean? Let’s explore the 5 key characteristics of what it takes to be a teacher for the iGeneration.
- Is a Lifelong Learner
“If we create a culture, where every teacher believes they need to improve, not because they are good enough, but because they can be even better, then there is no limit to what we can achieve” — Dylan William, British educationalist and Emeritus Professor at UCL.
The only constant is change. Educators of today have to be agile, ready to embrace and evolve with the changing world. It doesn’t matter if your teaching and content knowledge was amazing ten years ago. It may not be relevant at all today.
Teachers have to constantly reassess and evaluate their teaching approaches and styles in order to stay relevant. Great teachers integrate and adapt new teaching techniques and technologies with the same openness, they expect from their students.
2. Is an Engaging Storyteller and dream-merchant
“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give questions to think upon.” — Brandon Sanderson, science-fiction writer.
Learning has to be made engaging and interesting. A context, or a reason to learn has to be brought in. The art of storytelling mastered by great authors and filmmakers needs to be understood by teachers and its principles need to be applied in the teaching environment.
Teachers also need to become dream merchants, in order to inspire their learners, to stoke their imaginations and to make them believe they are capable of more. Self esteem and self belief are the powerful engines of achieving greatness.
3. Is creative, adaptive and Tech-Savvy
The world is changing fast and the rate of change itself is accelerating. We live in the technology age where a teacher’s ability to understand and apply technology will not only give access to recent, updated and relevant knowledge, it will also enable efficiency and accuracy in assessing the quality and quantity of learning.
The teacher needs to have the ability to research and optimally utilize technology to enable the most relevant and cutting edge learning experiences.
The teacher needs to be highly creative, to help learners apply what they’ve learned to find new and better ways of doing things. The ability to innovate is the most rewarded ability in the world.
4. Is learner-knowing and learner-centric
A great teacher of today needs to understand and apply the principles of child psychology. It is only through really knowing a learner, can the teacher fully tap into the real potential of the learner. Attention leads to learning and retention. Retention also leads to improved academic performance. The ability to get a child interested in learning leads to motivation, which is the most powerful fuel in an academic environment.
Hence, great teachers have the ability to make their young learners fall in love with learning. Successful teachers are those who motivate and help their students become independent learners.
5. Is a Trusted Counselor and role model
Teachers are more than just educators. They are the first adults (besides their parents) that children engage and interact with. Role modelling good values and right behavior are vital responsibilities. The ability to be sensitive to others, to cooperate and collaborate effectively, to be kind and empathetic, and when required to be tough are all that can be best taught by effective role modelling.
As an educator in the 21st century, or for that matter, in any century, the values instilled in learners today will determine the quality of their lives of tomorrow. Besides helping students imbibe knowledge, teachers also have to model key essentials like compassion, responsibility, tolerance and inclusiveness, so their learners live successful lives, and make those around them happy and successful too.
Teachers contribute more to their learners lives than just imparting knowledge. We all have fond memories of teachers — who we adored, the ones who truly cared and never gave up on us, the ones who showed us a bright path and the ones who inspired us to believe in ourselves so we had the confidence to accomplish more.
Besides a parent, teachers have enormous power to influence a child’s life. Teachers hold a huge responsibility towards their learners, the community and the entire nation. Teachers with these characteristics will continue to inspire and improve the lives of hundreds of students in the future, and through their students, they will indirectly influence thousands of lives.