The 21st-Century Teacher: Educating a New Kind of Driver

During a virtual meeting of the Global Cities Education Network, researchers from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) shared strategies for 21st-century teacher preparation. Their ideas mirrored a comprehensive set of recommendations generated by 18 accomplished teachers earlier this year. Practitioners and academics agree on teacher preparation’s destination. But how do we get there? We need a new type of transportation. And we need to trust the expert drivers in our midst.

This piece was originally published for Education Week’s Global Learning blog.  

Last week I was treated to a fortunate occasion of déjà vu.

During a virtual meeting of the Global Cities Education Network, researchers from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) shared strategies for 21st-century teacher preparation.

And guess what? The researchers’ ideas mirrored a comprehensive set of recommendations generated by 18 accomplished teachers earlier this year.

Practitioners and academics agree on teacher preparation’s destination. But how do we get there? We need a new type of transportation. And we need to trust the expert drivers in our midst: inviting them to be teacherpreneurs—innovative teachers who lead education and their profession without leaving the classroom.

We must prepare teachers today for hybrid and teacherpreneur roles so that the most accomplished practitioners continue working with students while expanding their influence.

Identifying energy sources

Every vehicle needs fuel—and we’ve got to get creative in this age of dwindling resources. So what about shared investments from universities, districts, unions, and community organizations? Many entities have a deep interest in recruiting, preparing, and retaining the best teachers. It’s time for meaningful, sustained partnerships that make a difference for kids. The Arizona K12 Center has teamed with the Tucson Unified School District and our organization—the Center for Teaching Quality—to support the teacherpreneur role of Sandy Merz, a Board Certified teacher who teaches engineering and algebra at Safford K-8 International Baccalaureate World School while connecting communities of teacher leaders who are transforming student learning.

Streamlining design for efficiency

Teacherpreneurs could design courses that integrate research with practice, ensuring that new teachers understand the links between their learning and what happens in classrooms. Using a blend of face-to-face and virtual communication, teacherpreneurs could provide job-embedded collaboration and mentoring that reinforces teaching as a team sport. Recently, I joined José Vilson, a math teacher in the Inwood/Washington Heights neighborhood of New York, NY, to virtually mentor teaching candidates at Wheaton College—including those currently studying in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic—who are preparing for their careers by engaging with accomplished teacher leaders who are transforming education beyond their school buildings.

More sensitive gauges

Teacherpreneurs could develop performance assessments like edTPA. These tests could ensure that teachers are prepared for a given content area and that genuine measures of readiness—rather than seat time—determine when candidates are prepared to teach on their own.

Alternative routes, new roads

Providing these roles offers accomplished teachers a career pathway that maximizes their expertise without requiring them to abandon what they do so well: teach.

No longer do we need to force teachers to decide between “advancing” their career and teaching kids regularly. Let’s make way for the 700,000 teachers in America who are interested in leading without leaving, like teachers in Singapore and Finland are doing already.