There has never been a better time to be a student than right now. Teaching tools in the modern classroom have transitioned from blackboards and overhead projectors to LCD screens and multi-sensory presentations. Besides attending lectures and reading textbooks, students can also access schools’ portals for additional material and online assignment submissions, as well as to interact with their teachers and classmates.
However, teaching tools aside, if the teacher is second-best, the students will still suffer. Educational researcher William Sanders, found that all other factors, such as class size, ethnicity, location and poverty, all paled into triviality compared with teacher effectiveness. His research also showed that students who have had a succession of bad teachers lagged behind.
Knowing the subject and mastering the content is not good enough. A good teacher must also know how to teach the subject. He or she has to encourage, enable, guide and shape young minds. Lighting the fires and of learning and discovery is what a good teacher does.
Good teachers usually go the extra mile. They are able to quickly size up the backgrounds of their young charges and offer help in a manner that suits each individual student. Igniting the students’ love for learning and showing students that they care is key.
At the heart of the teacher’s work is the student. Every teacher must equip his or her students well to survive and succeed in the new global landscape. The teacher has to develop the child not only intellectually, but also socially, morally, physically and aesthetically.
Students no longer gather information from textbooks. They can get information from anywhere on the internet. This in turn raises the skills bar for the 21st-century teacher. The mastery of the core knowledge in a discipline is still important. However, with the “knowledge explosion”, an effective teacher also has to become expert curators of information. The teacher must now learn to guide his or her students on their learning, how to access, evaluate, organise and use information from a variety of sources.
Teaching a discipline well requires the teacher to balance how and what he or she teaches. The 21st-century teacher must be able to facilitate learning, stimulate students and control, moderate and manage communication and collaboration. Teachers now have to be digitally literate. They also must be able to use technology in ways that enhance their teaching and reach out to students.
Knowledge and skills passed on by teachers to students must be anchored by values. Students must be taught the right values to be able to make ethical decisions to guide the application of science and technology in society.
Cultural literacy is an important value teachers must nurture in their young charges to thrive in a wired-up and well travelled world which now has fewer barriers between nations. In a global economy, there is a greater necessity for knowing, understandng and appreciating other cultures. In order to teach values, the 21st century teachers must model behaviors that they expect from their students – tolerance, global awareness, sensitivity to the environment and the love for learning.
Good, effective teachers possess a combination of personal qualities that would predispose them to become good teachers. These qualities include the love for children, teenagers and learning, patience, and being good communicators. An effective 21st century teacher would also constantly look for more effective ways to teach and learn.