ATTRIBUTES OF 21st CENTURY TEACHERS
There has been much discussion on what 21st century learners need to do and focus on. Much has been written on the skills required for 21st century learners. Since our lives are very closely associated with learners, I thought that we can’t be left behind in this “up gradation “and “update “exercise.
5th September of every year is dedicated to Teachers and nationwide celebrations on to recognise what teachers do and give to the nation. We also have the traditional “ Guru Poornima Day celebrations “ but for some reasons , it is dominantly focused on teachers ( gurus ) who teach and train their disciples for various art forms. We do send greetings and other token exchanges to mark this day. However 5th September is big – schools celebrate, students express their gratitude, best teacher awards given, Prime Minister addresses the nation, local communities and political class felicitate teachers and social media is filled with greetings and sentiments.
Teachers are given highest honour in words and given a feeling that the whole world depends on us. I would say that there is a partial truth in this. The expressions , I wish , are self-fulfilling prophesies – that we truly inspire , influence our learners, transform lives , touch lives , equip people for other professions and take the profession to the level that we command respect and honour all times . Not just for one day.
I wish we don’t have to claim fame that we build nation, we are the architects of the society and that we know it, believe it and live it . Once 5th September passes, life goes back to normal routines and often times sink to mediocrity and basics. I wonder if we need to do something to elevate our own professional standards so without beating our drums, we get due importance and respect. We are caught in the “ Chakra Vyuh “ of living in past glory , sentiments and victories and sacrifices of few outstanding individuals .
It is time to “update “our software called attitude – towards our profession.
Here is my list of updates for 21 st Century teachers.
Upgrade and Update:
Gone are the days when we could rely on old B.Ed and other qualifications to get and retain jobs. We need to renew our licence – not just in any formal sense but in informal ways too.There is large open source content available and we need to take initiative to study, train , read , familiarise ourselves to what is current and contemporary . Not so much in content but more in our approach to teaching, learning process.
Connect with our learners:
We need to know their world, respect their context and show genuine appreciation of what they bring to classroom.Often times we approach them with either condescending attitude or with fear or with disconnect, sometimes loaded with our pre-conceived notions and prejudices.
Be assertive and not aggressive:
Power equations are to be redefined with this generation. We are no more “the sage on stage” who knows it all. We have the authority to inspire them and shape them but not rule and control their minds. When we use our power to do any of this , we have lost the plot.
Grow in breadth and depth:
Gone are the days when super specialists are in demand. We need generalists; we need people who will not compartmentalise education system with subject specialisation. We need people who can unify and deliver wholesome education – connecting real world with learning, connecting student life with learning, connecting subjects so they see learning as continuous and connected. We need to go out of our way to learn new stuff , new subjects , new matters , new horizons , new hobbies , new sport , new art , anything new and that you have not been familiar with. Let’s not limit our world with boundaries of subject specialisations.
I know we have come this far and many of us are hesitant to go any further. We don’t have a choice. Our learners are miles ahead of us and we need to keep pace with them. We need to learn from them. We need to go beyond the
“Token - technology “tools.
Celebrate our colleagues’ successes:
This is possible only if we have high self-esteem.This has been one of our down sides. It is a night mare for most leaders to award few outstanding teachers.We reveal our maturity or lack of it by expressing “loser talk “. This in turn intimidates the teachers who are truly outstanding and they want to hide from the attention they truly deserve. Isn’t it an irony that we as professionals thrive on showcasing our best students and take pride and credit for it but don’t feel well when our fellow colleagues rise above the ordinary?
Balance the head and heart:
It is a bliss and bane that we are a women dominant work force. We bring finest emotional aspect to our profession. We act as surrogate parents (we are not) and big sisters.We wear emotions on our sleeves and bring extreme responses to every day cycles of school life. We seem to be in permanent state of “awe and shock “and claim ownership for mostly all positive happenings.This limits us as true professionals – who can think and act.As women we can get so petty, gossipy, discuss personal lives of our students and parents, comment on personal preferences etc. that it steals the respect of us being true professionals.Hope we can use emotions constructively and diligently.
Focus on the core of education:
In the larger context, it really doesn’t matter what our students wear, how they look, how big their scores are, level of interest and engagement they show in non-academic matters.What matters most is – if they can learn life’s ethics, values, and respect from real time role models – that is you.Rest will fall in place, eventually.
Past has its place but cannot rule the present:
We all have lived our student’s life in certain context. Talking about it may make an interesting story but our students may not relate to it let alone emulate it. So don’t sit in driver seat, drive the “class room car ‘through rear view mirror.We can’t lead nor can we reach our destination safely.
Meanings given to class levels are meaningless:
There is no promotion attached when we are given “higher levels “to teach and demotion when we are given a primary / middle school level for teaching. It is in our mind. This is utterly disrespectful to younger students and teachers who teach elementary / middle school levels. We can’t trivialise the challenges these teacher s face , the crucial role they play in our students lives during formative years and lay strong foundation so we can build on the pillars they have erected.
Treat it as a professional vocation:
Education is a cause, it is an inner call for most of us, a convenient choice for many of us or simply a job we switch to from time to time.This is a profession with high ethical codes and integrity. Do not do anything that will jeopardise the student’s learning process.Stand up for their rights as you are their legitimate voice.Your loyalty must lie with and for students as they are the reasons you are here. If your colleague / friend is acting in any ways that will harm the students, stand up and be heard – of the ethical codes and moral stands we must take. Let go the relationship that is neither true to self nor to the profession.
Lastly and most importantly:
Be passionate about your profession as if it is matter of life and death!
Happy Teachers Day!