In this world, teachers must embrace the fact that never again will it be realistic for teachers to get to a certain point in their career and hold tightly there, year after year. In my earlier days teaching, this was the goal: to get to a point in which the teacher could settle in and essentially reprise the best of what they do over and over.
That isn’t to say that becoming a veteran, seasoned teacher is worthless. In fact, it means that the refinement and evolution necessary to stay relevant should become easier and easier as teachers build the skills that are in most favor in today’s education world. These skills rely less and less on static knowledge and more and more on transferable skills that highlight understanding how students learn and grow.
The new skills veteran and skilled teachers possess today look much different:
Highly valued qualities for teachers — traditional education:
- Content knowledge
- Department leadership
- Connections with parents and community
- Strong classroom management
- Rigorous grading
Highly valued qualities for teachers — modern (21st century) education:
- Authentic assessment
- Regional, national, global leadership
- Knowledge plasticity
- Classroom community
- Cultural responsiveness
- Ability to learn with students
- Guiding independent learning
- Understanding of data use, standards, and intervention strategies
The fact is that increasingly, teachers who are great at the first set of qualities but struggle with the second will simply be less prized. As those more static veterans either retire or move on from teaching, those remaining will be under even more pressure to change, as new hires are continually sought with those 21st century skills. Those who are changing jobs may find it very difficult to find great jobs in education, because hiring teams will be looking for the second set of qualities.
Chances are, if you are reading an education blog, you are at least partially apt to exhibit the qualities for 21st century teaching. However, changes are your colleagues may be at all different places. Nevertheless, this conversation needs to continue to happen, and it needs to happen often.
Without constant evolution in education, eventually it will become irrelevant in society (as some would already claim) and the change will happen anyway, in a far more dramatic fashion.