Being an educator today is tough. Sure, educational technology affords us a myriad of tools to engage our students and to expedite and complete our many professional duties. But this undeniable truth does not erase the necessity that today’s educator must be a jack of all trades and a master of one.
Let’s take a look at some of the many hats worn by the modern teacher.
1. Edtech Guru
Keeping up with educational technology that continues to evolve at lightning speed is no small task. Eighteen years ago when I first stepped into a Language Arts classroom, there were hardly any technology gadgets to consider. Seriously. I thought my Excel gradebook that a colleague created for our English department made me a tech guru. Coupled with a district-provided e-mail account a few years later, I felt I had maxed out. Of course, I used a VHS camcorder, which was about the size of a small suitcase, to capture many learning moments in class. Today, my professional learning network via Twitter is my go-to source for all things educational. Care to see some of my favorite edtech tools? Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of an EdTech Goldmine.
Although being able to work through thirty minutes of sun salutations every morning will surely help with teaching stress, flexibility is what I am talking about here. All successful teachers are skilled at balancing between when to lead the learners and when to follow the students. If you want to see a classroom of students turn their interest off, just observe a colleague discourage a collective idea by mindlessly adhering to a lesson plan that is banjo-tight with rigidity and one-sidedness. Yep, flexibility that allows all invested parties a voice is the mark of a strong teacher. Downward dog, anyone?
3. Interior Designer
Classroom design is crucial. All successful educators get that. Seating arrangement, desks versus tables, color schemes, clutter versus purposeful storage, maker spaces, quiet zones, presentation areas, recording studios, and an overall environment conducive to BYOD are all important matters to consider. Studio 113, an interactive and stage-centered classroom at East Hall High School, has much room for improvement, but it definitely creates a collaborative and creative atmosphere for all students. Click here to view Studio 113’s classroom design.
Today’s educator must understand how much baggage students may be carrying, what inspires students to achieve their very best, and what specific and personal challenges all students are facing. It never ceases to amaze me how, when given the opportunity, students will openly illuminate their dark places and celebrate their proudest moments. Sometimes all it takes is a face-to-face conversation, an open-response writing assignment, a passion-based learning opportunity, or an informational survey. Without a doubt, getting to know the complete student is essential to the student learning from a core of self-knowledge and intrinsic inspiration. Are you connected to today’s students and their interests? Click here to read Jon Harper’s take on the matter in “Babe Ruth Meets Drake.”
5. The Examined
In relation to the aforementioned teaching role in the paragraph above, those who can examine should not mind being examined. Likewise, having students offer constructive criticism about teachers’ overall performances is invaluable. Yeah, I know, it is sometimes tough to learn what students think about you, but it should be a requirement for educators. After all, the students are the customers, aren’t they? And here is the good news: there is no need to wait for your administrators to survey the students. You can ask all the questions you want with a Google Form. Need help getting started? Questions like these move educators towards best practices.
Maybe not to the extent depicted in Weird Al Yankovic’s parody, but all teachers know what I mean by “Handyman.” Think about it. What if you could quantify all the times you dropped to a knee to clear a paper jam from a copier machine, drilled holes in a wall to install storage shelves in your classroom, climbed a ladder to run speaker wire above a dropped ceiling, or pulled a back muscle to repair a wobbly table? Yeah, some days a toolbelt in the classroom is just as necessary as a computer and projector.
7. Referee and/or Mediator
This skill comes in especially handy when students are asked to collaborate on an assignment. Whether the task is small or large, disagreements, personality conflicts, and life’s little “growing” moments will occur during these collaborative and creative opportunities. Calm and respectful teachers can guide students through these challenges in a manner that does not leave others feeling offended or disrespected. Now, these lessons may not apply to any standards listed on a lesson plan, but a real 21st Century Educator fully understands the importance of such development.
Ask any student what makes a speaker boring, and he/she will say, “Mono-toned, unenergetic, unengaging with the audience, and out-of-touch with students’ interests.” The modern educator needs to be a sort of entertainer at times. Now, I’m not saying teachers have to showcase magic, singing, dancing, or some acrobatic art. I’m simply saying that lecturing to a generation who understands that the same topic at hand can be investigated and explored in a gazillion different ways via the endless library known as the internet…is not always the most effective delivery of content. Jazzing up a concise and powerful teaching session with gamified and interactive learning structures, educational technology that allows students’ feedback via mobile devices, and interesting and relative videos is an absolute must. Click here to see a mesmerizing example of what grasps today’s students’ attention.
Take it from me, a high school baseball coach for twelve years and an aspiring tennis instructor, no educator decides to coach for the extra supplement. As one of my colleagues calculated during a successful, but extremely rainy and busy, baseball season, the extra pay often comes down to mere nickels and dimes per hour. Most people see the games and think there must not be much to coaching. These same people neglect to consider the time it takes to do the following: raise money for the program, plan successful practices, order equipment and uniforms, schedule games and referees, coordinate parental involvement for fundraisers and concession stands, maintain the playing fields and courts, and drive the team bus. Perhaps the most overlooked facet of coaching, however, is the time is takes to wind-down or de-stress after a tough, gut-wrenching game.
10. Fan and/or Cheerleader
Want to witness something powerful? Try this: pick out a student who is struggling in class and go watch him involved in something outside the academic realm. This activity may be a church performance, a sporting event, or simply anything that highlights the personal interests of the student. Three things are sure to happen: 1.The student will see you in a different light. 2. You will witness a student full of passion and zest for life within his comfort zone. 3. A new bond or connection will be established. The truth is…every person deserves a fan club. Why not start one?
I love it that Albert Einstein said, “I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” Bolstered by this wise saying, many days will find a teacher facilitating learning via flipped classrooms, blended learning, project-based learning, interactive and gamified lessons, and collaborative assignments. One thing is definite: a teacher who sees himself as the sage-on-the-stage in these rapidly growing times will soon see himself struggling in the teaching profession.
It seems this list could go on forever. You name it and it more than likely should be added to the list. Job titles like student, secretary, data collector, promoter, and…superhero. Yeah, they all seem to fit.
One thing is for sure, however. Today’s educator performs a multitude of challenging duties (many that go unnoticed) that all cumulatively point to the mastery of one very, very important job.
(Please add to this endless list by posting your comments below.)
For more blogs by John Hardison, check out: