11/04/2017 • 10 min read
What Makes a Modern Teacher?
Author: Martin Roth
I’m a huge fan of RPG video games. One of my favorites is Final Fantasy VII, but what characterizes all RPG games is that you need to continuously acquire new skills before you can advance to the next level. Only with these new skills can you overcome the next challenges. This idea got me thinking about the field of teaching, and how much it has probably changed over the decades. This evolution has required teachers to constantly update their repertoire as the years pass by. Progression in both society and technology ensures that the art of teaching has to follow suit.
Currently, technology is rapidly developing and finding its way into many aspects of our lives. In education, it’s affecting the way students learn and the way teachers teach. For that reason, challenges faced by the modern teacher have evolved when compared with the same role 30, or even 10, years ago.
To investigate this further, we decided to ask veterans of the profession which skills they feel are vital for the modern teacher. Here’s a summary of what they said.
1. Personal Skills
Stress Management Skills:
A survey in the UK revealed that 53% of teachers are thinking of quitting in the next couple of years. The two most popular reasons listed were the volume of work and the desire to find a better work/life balance. Learning how to effectively cope with and manage stress is important life skill – one that everybody, including teachers, should work on.
Personal development is a continuing process. When we assess our skills and qualities, we can evaluate our aims in life and set goals in order to meet them.
2. Interpersonal Skills
Being able to communicate effectively is one of the most important of all life skills, and it is an essential to those of us in the field of teaching. Communication is the transfer of information from one place to another, whether through speech, the written word, visually, or non-verbally. It’s the teacher’s job to determine the best ways to communicate with students, and increasingly key is the ability to take into account different learning styles while doing so. Modern teachers must be able to incorporate different modes of communication to serve a range of learners. Determining the individual needs of students will also make teachers more aware of their teaching style, and help them to incorporate different elements into lessons as appropriate.
One of the most important skills teachers need for modern classroom management is negotiation. The relationship between teacher and student has dramatically changed in recent years. Gone are the days when the teacher was considered to be “always right”. Students are more empowered than ever before. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and can actually help to foster better relations between students and teachers in the long run. Students are increasingly feeling heard and respected by their teachers, who are now both taking lessons and modeling good communication skills. For any teacher, negotiation in the classroom is all about managing the balance between the role of teacher and that of a peer. It’s certainly an art worth dedicating time to, and can make your classroom a place of constant learning, with all interactions becoming ‘teachable’ moments.
Conflict Resolution Skills:
Conflict is a normal part of life and will arise in any classroom. It can even be used as a healthy part of the learning process. It’s how teachers manage moments of conflict that determines whether a situation will become functional or dysfunctional. Disagreements can become either productive or destructive in a matter of minutes. There are many different conflict styles in which educational advantages can be found. In fact, if effectively handled, conflict can provide very good learning experiences for students. We’d recommend taking a course or reading-up on conflict management styles to any modern day teacher.
Listening is vital to successful communication. Teachers are not just “chalk and talk” teachers anymore, and need to become good active listeners in order to be effective as effective as possible. Listening should be a two-way process. In the past, teachers have done most of the talking, but now it is more essential than ever to make classrooms a place of discussion. After all, students spend plenty of time listening to teachers, and the best way to increase engagement in a subject is to have informed conversations. We must learn to respect each other. The end goal here is a generation of students that aren’t too dependent on teachers, and see them not as a fountain of knowledge, but a guiding figure in the learning process. It’s important to to develop learners that can think on their own, capable of finding their own solutions to everyday problems.
Critical Thinking/Problem Solving:
More and more people are realizing that critical-thinking skills are key to a successful career and life in general.In order to produce students that are critical thinkers and problem solvers, educators need to become critical thinkers as well. Prior to modern times, many teachers focused on Bloom’s “remembering” part of the pyramid, deeming it the most important element for learning. But teachers are no longer “taskmasters” that feed content to students in record time. Many schools are now emphasizing the importance of higher-order thinking skills. If this movement is to succeed, we must set out a new vision for teachers too. We must practice the kind of deep-thinking skills that we are now required to teach.
3. Leadership Skills
Change Management and Adaptability Skills:
Modern day teachers’ lives are in a constant state of flux, and it’s certainly one profession that requires the ability to manage change on a daily basis. Change management is all about helping yourself and others during times when adaption is needed. It’s a fact that we need to be willing to change to the ever-changing world of education. Continuous professional development is a must in our modern world of technology. There are constant waves of change bringing us newly developed techniques, which modify the way students learn and the way teachers teach.
Simply put, standing still isn’t an option. Expectations and learning standards are continually being updated by administrators, who have a huge role to play in making sure their schools remain up-to-date in our ever changing world. That is why being willing and able to adapt is a must-have skill for every modern teacher. The good news? Whether it’s being able to adapt to the way students learn, or the way we write our lesson plans, we now live in a world where many professional development venues are readily accessible and only a keystroke away.
4. Learning skills:
Lifelong Learning Skills:
Teaching is a lifelong learning process. There is always new information that can be found to aid professional development. The system is ever changing, along with the curriculum and educational technology, so it’s up to the teachers to keep up with the times. If we are willing to go that extra mile to learn, students will be inspired to do the same.
We need to update our information gathering skills. It used to be that the card catalogue was the secret to all of our answers, but now there is an information highway at our fingertips. Take time to learn what types of information and resources are available for teachers. There are a lot of educational resources out there that are very useful.
Teachers play an important role in the lives of their students. It is therefore important to set a good example at all times. As a mentor, teachers can unlock a child’s potential to maximize his or her own performance. We are helping them to learn and achieve, not just teaching them.
In this day and age, presentation skills are as important as they’ve ever been. As a teacher, there are always new skills to learn in order to become a more efficient communicator. Finding a style that best fits the audience is the most important thing, and with new tech coming out, we can always find a way to communicate in a way that is both easy to understand and interesting for students.
ICT and Digital Literacy:
Technology is everywhere; it is intertwined with almost every aspect of our lives. It affects everything that we do: how we shop, socialize, connect, play, and of course, how we learn. Since technology is greatly increasing its presence in our lives, we can no-longer hide from it. In one form or another, it is becoming an essential part of being a teacher. It’s up to those working in education to step up to the plate and learn what it is all about and how it can be applied. You may just be pleasantly surprised.I know I have been; there are many tech tools available that make the life of a teacher much easier.