The rise of digital resources can make teaching and learning even more effective, but it can also pose challenges to teachers who must constantly adjust their practices. Here are 11 professional skills that modern teachers need to develop in 2019.
1. Professional Flexibility
Our society is constantly changing. Today’s teachers have to adapt to new developments quickly in order to fully support their students. With dozens of new technologies being developed every day, teachers have to be ready to change their methods and adapt to the ways in which individual students learn best. This advice is especially relevant to those teachers who work with kids and adolescents. Younger students will be entering a professional world in which technology is ubiquitous. It is important that their teachers provide them with the essential knowledge and experience to understand and interact with this world.
2. A Thoughtful Online Image
It’s likely that your teachers’ private lives were mostly a secret to you during your own K-12 schooling. But today, there is little room for teachers of any age to hide. Almost everyone is has an online presence, particularly if they engage with social media. As a modern teacher, you should be careful when you post something online. Teachers are role models to their students, so it is important for them to provide a consistent image — whether in-person or online. Many teachers maintain private social media pages under pseudonyms, or keep their media light and school-appropriate. Alternatively, you could delete your less-private social media pages and start building your LinkedIn profile. This might benefit your career as well.
3. The Ability to Empower
Teachers have always inspired and empowered their students; this is not new. But with the distractions and unique challenges of today’s world, it is more crucial than ever that teachers build their students up and help them engage in the learning process. If you want your classes to be effective, they should also be fun. With an empowerment approach, students will not only be able to learn your subject but will also obtain critical thinking skills and the ability to self-reflect.
4. Innovation in the Classroom
Helping students make connections to the real, modern world is probably the best thing a teacher can do. Knowledge is most valuable when it can be applied in context. While your school district’s curriculum may be a primary determinant of what content gets studied (and when), it will be your job as a modern teacher to make that content relevant to the world in which today’s students are living.
5. Visual Aids
Never underestimate the importance of supporting your words with visual materials. For some students, that might make all the difference when it comes to understanding the information. If you’re lucky, your classroom is equipped with technology such as a Smart Board to make visual supports that much easier to provide. But even if you do not have the benefit of high-end tech, color-coding information, hanging posters, and providing graphic organizers can help visual-thinkers (as well as students with learning differences and English Language Learners) reach their content goals.
6. Academic Engagement
As a teacher, it is important to engage with the thriving academic and scientific community as much as you can. Attend conferences, seminars and workshops for teachers whenever possible in order to develop expertise in your field. In some states, these conferences might even count as professional development hours to help you reach your next pay grade. Exchanging your experience with fellow professionals is crucial; it will inspire you to try out new teaching methods, help you problem-solve in the classroom, and expose you to new research findings. Not to mention, it can be fun to spend some time with adults who share your line of work!
Students in the United States come from all backgrounds and socio-economic levels, so your classroom will probably be quite diverse. In addition, research tells us that different people learn differently, and that a strength-based approach to teaching will generally work best. No matter where you are teaching, students’ behavior, knowledge, and social interactions will be dictated by a variety of factors. It is your job as a teacher to find a personal approach when working with many different kinds of students. Avoid generalizing kids into one typical behavioral scheme or learning style. Learn to differentiate your instruction so that all students receive an equitable education.
8. Online Learning
With the wealth of web or app-based learning resources available today, it makes sense to integrate the Internet into your teaching. Why not include YouTube videos in your lesson plans? Or online platforms like Quizlet? Students are already spending much of their free time online and on apps. Curate digital resources that will engage your students with learning and encourage them to follow through on their studies.
9. Time Management
This is something that every professional can work on, not just teachers. The modern world is extremely fast-paced, and it can be difficult to adapt. As a teacher, you will be juggling many responsibilities both during and after school. It can be easy to feel as if the workday never ends, which can then lead to teacher burnout. Model solid time management for your students; hold yourself accountable for using time wisely, and find efficient ways to prioritize and accomplish your many tasks — without staying in the classroom until 9pm.
Many modern classrooms use co-teaching or team teaching to help reach more students and differentiate instruction. Whether you are working solo, with a partner, or as a member of a team, it’s important to develop solid teamwork skills as a teacher. Your ability to work well with others also offers a strong model to students, who are often tasked with completing group projects. Show them what it means to collaborate — be it on a small school project, an extracurricular activity, or a conference presentation.
Teachers must constantly communicate with students, administrators, fellow faculty members, and parents. In today’s age, much of this communication may be digital. Create a system for tracking and following through on classroom communication, be it via email, group chat, or some other service. Develop a professional but approachable voice for school-to-home communication, and stay on top of checking and replying to messages from colleagues and parents alike.
To Sum It Up...
Teaching is not an easy career. On the other hand, it is so much fun! With great demand comes great reward. And when things go well, the results can be outstanding. We hope that these tips will play a role in your development as a teacher, and will help you get the most out of your job.