Who is the 21st Century Teacher?

There’s a Buddhist saying: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” For the last several months, I have been engaged in research via the blogosphere and Twitterverse that sometimes feels nothing less than a Master’s thesis. Last January, I led a Middle School Steering Committee at my school whose main purpose was to produce two documents: Portrait of an ACDS Graduate and Characteristics of Professional Excellence. The committee was composed of veterans and newbies a learning specialist and the Director of Marketing. We met monthly for at least an hour, and sometimes we met on a Sunday evening to give ourselves enough time. We eventually ended up renaming the Portrait of an ACDS Graduate to Portrait of an ACDS Graduate of 2020. Those last two words made a significant difference to our discussion; it was as if we had been liberated as we imagined not the graduate of tomorrow but the graduate of nine years from now. We tried to imagine what skills and dispositions the ACDS Graduate of 2020 would need to be successful not simply in high school but in life. In other words, we wanted the document to represent more than just academic skills; what life skills would any learner need in 2020 to navigate the virtual and physical worlds they’d occupy?

We were proud of our efforts and made plans on how we could use it as a lens, a filter of sorts through which strategic decisions would be made in the future. What became immediately clear to me is that as we had created this document of the 21st century ACDS Graduate, we needed the second document we worked on – Characteristics of Professional Excellence – to reflect the 21st century ACDS Teacher. This task has proven somewhat harder, not in the definition but in its implementation. Change is hard and we have created a structured plan that allows for us to move in a measured pace with accountability built in.

So who is the 21st century teacher? The 21st century teacher:

  • Is a facilitator and a guide in the classroom 
  • Models self- and collaborative learning 
  • Connects virtually and physically with a wide and diverse network of educators and other professionals across the world 
  • Is of a community rather than just in a community
  • Values and demonstrates cross-cultural competence in and out of the classroom
  • Uses blended learning to create an interactive and inquiry-based student-centered classroom
  • Uses professional development – traditional and virtual – to stay current with promising practices
  • Seeks out and uses constructive feedback from students and peers/administrators to inform teaching
  • ??? (Please add your own to this list in the comments!)

Future posts will look at what we are doing at ACDS to bring about this change in our practice, as well as ways we intend to use the Portrait of an ACDS Graduate of 2020 document. I will also comment on other trends and topics relevant to both parents and educators in the 21st century. For more resources, you can follow me on Twitter or check out an online newspaper I curate every day called The 21st Century School and Home.

8 thoughts on “Who is the 21st Century Teacher?

  1. A very thoughtful and clear listing. Thank you. Here a few more ideas for your list.

    Finding ways to engage students in learning activities/projects giving them ownership over information gathering and learning project creation involves a great deal of creativity. This creativity process also involves knowing how to design meaningful WebQuests, eTextbooks, slideshows, video, etc. as delivery mechanisms for the projects. Effective teachers know how to move beyond textbooks to create their own curriculum resources often partnering with their students in the process.

    Educators having the skills of “Information and Communication Literacies” (ICL) connects to your PD point of knowing where to get information while also being a part of a community by sharing one’s ideas via blog posts, journal articles, podcasts and/or tweets. The literacies of media and information interpretation, selecting the technology tools to best meet the task, good design as in layout and image use, etc. are what we teach the students so we should of course be modeling them.


    1. David,

      I agree completely. As we consider 21st century skills for our students – creativity and design-thinking paramount on most lists – we must provide adequate professional development and training for our teachers to model the same in their curricula and lessons.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog!


  2. The wonderful thing about the Portrait of a Graduate of 2020 is that it is a clear, almost tangible list of attributes and descriptions to which we can keep pointing ourselves and our actions. It was so great to see the categories of the portrait show up in a template for students as they prepare for their student led conference with parents. In each category were the behaviors and actions that demonstrated the acquisition of the characteristic of the Graduate.

    The Characteristics of Professional Excellence may need the same sort of personal reflection that we are asking of our students.


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