Ms. Vandana Banga is a Dale Carnegie certified Teacher Trainer, diploma holder in Neuro- Linguistic Programming (NLP), a Transactional Analysis (TA) and Emotional Intelligence (EI) Practitioner, Pedagogy Ninja. mentor and facilitator. She has a nearly two decades of experience of school administration, teaching, facilitation and teacher training. She has served several reputed schools in north India in a number of leadership roles.
Her basic interest lies in creating authentic and engaging learning environments and promoting meaningful transactions to enhance performance and awareness. She helps create cultures of creativity, curiosity and empathy in educational set-ups.
Education is meant to be a joyous and meaningful journey for a child but unfortunately it has been transformed into a race where young minds are trained to run blindly after marks, grades and exams. They are continuously prepared for a world where they are going to be judged through their scorecards and they have to sustain in a competition by defeating all others. Somehow in doing so, the sole basic purpose of education to prepare them for life is defeated.
We are soon approaching a world where our students will be working in jobs which don’t yet exist, the technology which they would be using has not been invented till now and the problems they would be expected to solve have not been anticipated yet. The meaning of employability skills has changed over time and includes some new qualities like emotional intelligence, critical thinking, inclusion, cognitive flexibility and so on.
To sustain in this fast-changing world, the young generation needs much more than traditional academic learning and different set of competencies and character qualities and thus, we educators need to be very clear of what is expected out of us. Teachers of the 21st century have to be mentors, innovators, motivators and facilitators and being the subject matter experts only will no more suffice. Teachers need to grow and evolve collaboratively to bring a deliberate shift from rote learning to future readiness in the learning journey of the child.
A school having an excellent infrastructure that is fully equipped with all the gadgets, tablets, smart boards, computers and other necessary technology might still not be a 21st century school until and unless its teachers are driven with a genuine desire and passion to transform their students’ lives. It’s the purpose-oriented educators who form the pillars of a strong education system. To realise the true essence of 21st century education, teachers must be empowered with the following seven attributes to get well-equipped to train the head, heart and hands of their students along with the focus on their health and create harmony.
1. Balcony View
It is very common for teachers to run around struggling to check their daily “to-dos” off their list and lose sight of the big picture of their role as educators. Teachers play a pivotal role in designing young lives with their unconditional love and immense support so it becomes imperative for them to be aware of their core beliefs and values that they want to see themselves working at. They need to have a top view and watch like a hawk regularly to see how far they are able to achieve what they are expected to and where they are on their journey. They need to ponder with objectivity
to realise what exactly needs to be done for a positive outcome.
Coming out of the daily routine trap and reflecting with a rationale to plan and visualise with a broader perspective about their role is sacrosanct and makes a real big difference. Maintaining a monthly goal journal, detailed lesson and session planning, continuous feedbacks and reflections and regular retreats and orientations play an important role not to get off track and keep working with a clear vision and mission.
2. Cultivating a culture of 4 C’s
When we talk about 21st century education, the purpose is to genuinely focus on the skills which children need to master to lead a meaningful life. The foundation of a 21st century classroom must be based on inquiry, innovation and interaction. The students must be deliberately exposed to some real- world scenarios or problems where they brainstorm extensively, take decisions, demonstrate critical thinking and creativity, analyse data, communicate their ideas, collaborate and thus come to a practical and innovative solution. This is the best way to prepare the younger generation to think out of the box and get ready for a future which is so uncertain.
Moreover, regular questioning by the teacher at various stages of the learning process encourages students to use their thinking skills, evoke their curiosity and helps them comprehend and analyse the information. Questions catering to various stages of Bloom’s taxonomy helps to address all the cognitive processes. Focussing more on spot-light and open-ended questions, handling incorrect responses through rephrasing or redirecting or refining and guiding the discussion constructively foster their deep engagement and help them practice important life and behaviour skills, thus preparing them to evolve and get ready to face life.
3. Paradigm Shift
To facilitate the move from the role of taking notes and listening passively to being an active participant in the teaching-learning process, a deliberate shift is expected to happen in a student’s life from the instruction paradigm to the learning paradigm. Teachers need to design and plan the flow of a classroom experience such that students take the onus and leadership of their learning. Experiential learning, hands-on experience, role plays, peer-teaching, blended learning, group work, discussion forums, Jigsaw method are some of the pedagogical approaches which can be implemented to facilitate student-centred learning from teacher-centred teaching. Considering that each child has a different and unique learning style, personalised learning and differentiated instruction can help create a positive impact on students’ learning outcomes.
Using technology invites children to move from being engaged to being empowered, inculcate curiosity and interest among students and also provides opportunities for a deeper comprehension of concepts. Also, using interactive starters and checking the previous knowledge of students through several tools, apps and techniques can impact learning in a much better way. Also doing proper closure before leaving the classroom
always have a deep and everlasting impact on the students learning graph.
4. Assessments for learning
Instead of using assessments of learning, 21st century teachers use assessments for learning which serves a more powerful purpose. It can be an authentic real-life situation like a baby elephant falling into a well accidentally and some forest officers using a scientific principle trying to help him come out or case of a bad road accident between a lorry and a car in the nearby area which can initiate further research or an investigation on any principle or a concept already discussed with the students and explore its further applications. Such assessments for learning are much more impactful and meaningful than the usual class tests and exams which just create fear and phobia among students and promote rote learning.
Various other techniques like QAXP, Write About, 3-2-1 sheet, Muddiest Point, learning corner, Four Corners, etc. can be used to augment learning which lasts for a longer time and serves a better purpose towards the big picture of education.
5. Mastering communication
According to Prof. Albert Mehrabian from the University of California, effective communication is 93% non-verbal and 7% verbal where body language and tonality form the components of non-verbal communication. So to have a meaningful transaction, great teachers always take care of their gestures, expressions and attitude while interacting with their students, colleagues as well as parents.
It’s humane to want to be understood first than to understand and that’s why every communication is approached from the same intention. Great teachers seek to understand the other person first, and then they speak their minds. It helps them to hear the other person’s perspective which allows them to make more mature and informed choices and responses. It also helps to get support from peer teachers, school leaders and parents which finally leads to harmony and growth in the entire learning set-up.
Building rapport and using positive language with children shape the way students look at themselves and help build a safer school environment. If teachers use positive and leading language, the entire school gets a clear academic and behaviour expectation of what is expected and it slowly enhances the culture. It cultivates empathy and kindness among all the school members and helps transform young lives.
Using a ‘Feedback Sandwich’ which involves clubbing the scope of improvement between genuine appreciation and authentic praise helps teachers to encourage and motivate the students to work harder and get better with time. Every individual is a unique blend of some beliefs, thoughts, ideas and talents. The role of a teacher is not to be judgemental and respect that uniqueness while interacting with everyone around. Hence 21st century educators communicate better and thus influence deeper.
6. Collaboration and Empathy
Teachers to be the change-makers, need to lead and be a role model for their students. They need to be what they expect their students to be like. They need to be self-aware and must know to regulate their emotions and triggers to help their children be more empathetic and patient with others. We all expect our children to be less self-centred and selfish. The journey has to begin by leading ourselves and then expecting the young generation to follow us.
Collaborating with fellow teachers, sharing the best practices, taking feedbacks, self-leadership and using some “ME Time” to reflect and ponder for self-improvement are some of the ways by which teachers can walk the talk, regulate their behaviour and be emotionally intelligent. This journey starts from self and then lead to impact others. If teachers are aware of their own selves, they can help their children to master themselves and regulate their emotions as well.
7. Continuous improvement and growth mind-set
Being proactive, embracing change and having a continuous burning desire to upgrade themselves through several teacher education programs and training sessions help teachers to stay updated and stay connected with professionals all around. Teachers need to hone their skills set through continuous on-going professional development programs as and when required to nourish their lifelong love for learning. It is believed that the teachers who know what’s going on around them and are well aware of their surroundings create the most powerful impact on the young minds. Children can relate to their ideas and thoughts much better and learn the most with them.
A fixed mind-set and “I know it all” attitude, on the other hand, hinders the growth and never cater to the learning needs of the children. This attitude fails to create an impact and a desire in the young generation to receive and achieve so it’s imperative for 21st century educators to continually look for opportunities and platforms to grow and evolve with time.
As discussed, education plays a vital role at the root of any growing economy. It is an empowering tool and needs everyone’s serious and mindful attention. Teachers are the most crucial agents to bring about a positive change to strengthen this tool and bring about a positive shift in the mind-sets. Teachers need to be respected, supported and encouraged to become more adaptive and agile to master their cognitive domain, synergise with the fellow workers, hone their skills and continuously upgrade themselves to realise their actual mission and make their vision a reality. Schools and school leaders need to be more appreciative and must care for their teachers and work as a strong team to function well. This is how we can nurture and groom young minds to get better prepared for the future and be better equipped for the challenges of 21st century education.
Teachers are the ones who nurture the leaders of tomorrow and shape their future. Be an empowering teacher who shapes an empowering world! Be the best version of yourself. Let the 21st century know that you are ready for every challenge it throws at you!