Fall 2010

Teachers of the Future

Teachers of the Future: Using New Skills to Prepare Students

Teachers of the Future: Using New Skills to Prepare Students

Teachers of the future are today’s multifaceted teachers educating and preparing students to meet the demands of the post-secondary arena and job market. Notice I didn’t mention a test. Teachers of the future will focus less on testing and more on the teaching skills that place students on a trajectory to meet testing demands and beyond.

Teachers of the future are today’s multifaceted teachers educating and preparing students to meet the demands of the post-secondary arena and job market. Notice I didn’t mention a test. Teachers of the future will focus less on testing and more on the teaching skills that place students on a trajectory to meet testing demands and beyond. That’s where I’ll begin. I believe teachers of the future will have greater confidence and will become more advanced in their ability to teach beyond the test. Paper/pencil tests have their place in assessing a student’s level of understanding of concepts. Life is filled with tests, many of which will not be on paper but on one’s ability to apply various skills. Teamwork and communication skills come to mind. These are skills under assault by technology that encourages solitary activity (texting); hence, it is important to incorporate skills that provide equilibrium and reach all learners.

Teachers of the future will have to teach to the skills not the test. The fear of being held accountable for everything except what we can control in the classroom is a major aggravation and has forced many to “teach to the test.”

Not all teachers are guilty of this, but studies suggest that when teachers come face to face with failure in the classroom, they revert to teaching to their comfortable level (which may not be working) or teaching the way they were taught way back when.

Allowing students a major role in steering their learning through projects (project-based learning) or through opportunities to serve others by applying concepts learned in class (in-service learning) makes learning real for students. I have used these techniques since leaving the newsroom some 12 years ago. It was the easiest way for me to make learning language arts concepts realistic and less mundane. When I attached in-class reading and writing to real world broadcast journalism duties and skills, students were more engaged and open to learning. In addition, bringing in a local journalist or taking students to local newsrooms makes this a real world experience. Instead of just using a multiple choice test to assess student learning in this situation, provide students with some choices of assessments and even allow their input in brainstorming additional possibilities of how they could best show what they learned. Of course, objectives aligned with appropriate benchmarks and competencies are considered in creating the alternate assessment.

Teachers of the future must become more adept in their ability to use data to diagnose problems and prescribe interventions that assist students in going to the next level. The one benefit of testing data is it allows educators to see students’ strengths and weaknesses at different times in the year to curtail pitfalls that are inevitable if there is no diagnosis.

Because tests are a reality, test data must be viewed as a friend that allows teachers to improve testing outcomes by strategically addressing students’ needs. Teachers of the future will embrace testing data and be proficient in its use to improve learning outcomes.

Many classrooms are still void of updated technology. I can say this because the only technology I had in my classroom just a couple of years ago was what I brought myself. Any extra technology that I thought would add value to the classroom experience, I jumped on it. However, as a former broadcaster, in my mind the radio/cd player/tape recorder/microphone were archaic, especially after using it year in and year out, but when I compared it to teaching with just standard tools (book, notebook) the technology added another dimension to my instruction. It’s ludicrous to think we can compete with the cell phone and video games that pacify so many of our children and even some adults. Because our students have been in many cases over stimulated by various types of technology, equilibrium in the classroom can be manifested through the use of technology. Though many school districts are able to provide cutting edge technology in classes to help teachers embed a technical layer of enrichment in their lessons, there are still many other districts across this nation that don’t have the funds or are not using their funds in this area. Teachers of the future must be proactive. Such proactivity can be stepping outside the box/class to write grants for funding and reaching out to local businesses for support.

As a National Board Certification Teacher (NBCT), I believe wholeheartedly in the benefits certification affords the education profession. As an alternate route teacher, I discovered this certification process while pursuing my master’s degree during the early years of my career. When I discovered this process would help me to become the education expert I wanted to be, prepare students for the real world, and reward me financially, I was sold. Many teachers are intimidated by the process and are afraid of failure. I have always proclaimed the process is challenging but doable. As a candidate support person, I encourage teachers to go for it. It teaches one so much about his/her practice. This is information that confirms the positives and encourages application of missing ingredients that make for good teaching. As the federal government raises the bar and state education departments reach for the mark, educator evaluation systems look much like elements of National Board Certification. Any teacher who has gone through this process is bound to surpass the requirements of many evaluation systems.

Most importantly, I believe the teacher of the future will need to be communications and relationship specialists. They must specialize not just in communicating the information they teach but in building a level of trust in the classroom. Teachers come into contact with so many children who come to the classroom void of solid relationships in their personal lives. This means teachers must be ethical and in creating their classroom climates, include a means of encouraging ethical behavior in their students. The teacher of the future understands that this may not be part of the content area, but it’s a significant element in shaping productive students who will positively impact an imperfect workforce.

All in all, teachers of the future prepare students for the demands of the future. They don’t limit their instruction to meet the requirements of the day, but they look forward to challenge themselves and their students to address the challenges of tomorrow. 

Stacey Donaldson is Mississippi’s 2009-2010 Teacher of the Year. Donaldson, an educator of 12 years, teaches English II, oral communications, creative writing, and African- American Literature at Murrah High School in Jackson, MS. Donaldson advises the Not Here Club at Murrah, which promotes non-violence and a drug-free community. She is also the in-service coordinator for the Seatbelt Safety Campaign, which is a collaboration with Jackson State University and Meharry Medical College. 

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