Five characteristics of an effective 21st-century educator

"The effective 21st-century teacher will need to be adept in judging the educative and non-educative use of technologies," said one reader.

Today’s educators are constantly evaluating the skills students need to compete in the global economy. But what are the characteristics or skills needed to be an effective 21st-century educator?

We recently asked readers: “What are the qualities of an effective 21st-century educator?” Here are our readers’ top responses.

You might have heard that an effective 21st-century educator should be a “guide on the side,” not a “sage on the stage,” but according to readers, there’s much more to it than that.

For instance, one of the most common responses from readers was that 21st-century educators must be lifelong learners … and should be willing to learn not only from their peers, but from their students as well.

According to readers, an effective 21st-century educator…

1. Anticipates the future.

“A good 21st-century educator is one cognizant of the rapidly changing technology trends; one in tune with the direction of the economy, and future projected needs for business and industry; one aware of the career opportunities for children in the coming years, and all of the requisite educational skills and talents necessary to allow kids to position themselves to compete. Good 21st-century educators are always pushing the envelope to ensure that their students are not left behind in the wake of progress; in particular, he/she is one advocating constantly for change in educational thinking and planning to ensure that a district’s sub-group kids (minority and/or students at the poverty level) are not being left behind for lack of access to proper resources to allow them to compete with their suburban counterparts. Lastly, good 21st-century teachers are not teachers in a vacuum; they are progressive in pushing for systemic change via curriculum sequencing, prioritization of dollars, and prudent, strategic scrutiny of decision-making to ensure that the preparation of today’s children is always focused on preparing them for the world(s) in which they will live and work—not the current world in which the teachers have to navigate and dwell.” —Amy Baldridge, secondary curriculum supervisor, Xenia Community Schools

“The 21st-century educator must be a fluid thinker, ready to look at situations with fresh, creative eyes. He/she must go beyond the obvious to see the underlying patterns and core issues of a given circumstance. And—most importantly—an understanding of chaos theory is essential: The butterfly flaps its wings and 3000 miles away the weather changes.” —Donn K. Harris, executive director, artistic director, Oakland School for the Arts, Oakland, Calif.

“Today’s educators have the daunting task of preparing students for a future in the global 21st century. As we begin to lag behind other countries in the areas of math, science, engineering, and technology, we need to educate ourselves and pass this information to our students stat. STEM education is necessary in all grades in all schools in order to remain competitive in this now global society. The first challenge for teachers is to attract our students toward STEM education, and the second is to keep them interested. An emphasis on science should be equally important as reading and math. We, as a nation, are already falling behind other world nations. Today’s students are our future, and our future depends on their success.” —Bonnie Bahr, kindergarten teacher, Baltimore County Public Schools, Baltimore, Md.

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