December 12, 2016

Characteristics of a 21st Century Teacher in the USA

A good 21st century teacher in the U.S. is aware of the career opportunities that will be in the coming years for their students, and are always advocating towards forward thinking and planning to ensure all students will not be left behind. This approach requires that teachers think ahead to the next 10 years, rather than only focusing on today’s realities. There are 4 key characteristics of a 21st century teacher.

Embracing technology in the classroom

At any level of a K-12 education, technology plays an important role in the development of a child preparing for the future. That means a mastery of today’s technologies – writing blog entries in addition to standard essays or learning how to leverage social media as a communication platform, for example – as well as experimenting with new cutting-edge technologies such as 3D printing. The current focus in U.S. schools is teaching students to learn how to code and how to apply principles from computer science to other disciplines, including the social sciences and mathematics.

However, the use of technology in the classroom should not become a proxy for learning. In other words, it’s easy to assume that handing out a new smart tablet such as an iPad filled with educational apps will make kids smarter. But all of this new technology in the classroom actually requires a teacher who can teach kids how to empower themselves with this new technology.

Teaching soft skills

The future will increasingly require “soft skills” such as teamwork, collaboration and communication. As a result, teachers should be placing a real emphasis on these skills. For example, to encourage teamwork teachers might dedicate part of the learning experience to project-based work. To encourage communication skills, they might require students to make regular presentations to the classroom. And this would also include more emphasis on languages and global cultures, giving the ongoing globalization of the world.

Constantly updating and adapting teaching styles

What makes a truly great teacher is being able to change and adapt according to new trends. For example, the current trend is toward a more personalized, individualized form of teaching that focuses on the goals, needs and personalities of students. It’s no longer the case that a “one-size-fits-all” approach for teaching students. You need to be aware, for example, that some students may be better as visual learners, and take more of an effort to introduce visuals into the overall learning process.

Inspiring kids to be lifelong learners

The classic educational model, in which university education is the traditional end of the educational process, is undergoing a rapid re-think. The new focus is on re-skilling, up-skilling and constant learning. So teachers have to inspire in students a real passion for education that will make them lifelong learners.

In short, becoming a 21st century teacher requires constant attention to the craft of teaching. That’s why, in the United States, there is a lot of attention given to “professional development” – short courses that introduce teachers to new styles, trends and approaches. The idea is that teachers – just like their students – are also lifelong learners, constantly looking for ways to improve the way they teach.

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