The required skills set of today’s teacher has changed. Schools used to hire orators, conversationalists, and projectors of ideas. Being a teacher meant knowing how to convey information to a large group. Over time, that image changed. Today, teachers are not just speaking to a large group. Gone are the days of the traditional lecture with its “sage on the stage” mentality. Teachers are expected now to act as guides and mentors who can identify and harness the skills and strengths of their students. A teacher must be a flexible, out-of-the-box thinker who can react on his feet and tackle the unforeseen challenges of a diverse classroom.
Teachers are setters of expectations, drivers of innovation, and relationship builders. They are masters of their content areas who can communicate their passions to students and exchange new ideas to help uncover the passions of their students. The classroom has become a place that is NOT all about the teacher, but all about the student.
And yet, with the introduction of cyber schooling, the required skills needed by a teacher are shifting yet again. A cyber school teacher must adapt his skills, diversifying them in even more ways. So, how does this occur? How do the skills of a teacher change or morph to meet the needs of a cyber student?
Various schools handle this topic differently. In some cases, the cyber staff works remotely. This means they log in from a home office or some other remote location to work with their students. Teachers are isolated from their colleagues, but work in a way that mirrors how their students work. They have a computer, a phone, and an Internet connection at their disposal. They interpret information through a screen by reading text, chatting, having a phone conversation, or maybe a video chat. The idea here is that because a remote teacher acts just as his students, he has the potential be more compassionate and understanding toward the trials and troubleshooting that occur in a cyber environment.
But, working remotely doesn’t work for every school staff. At 21st Century Cyber Charter School, we do things a little differently. Our teachers are required to work on ground, from our home office in Exton, Pennsylvania. While work from home is an option on snow days and the like, the majority of time is spend in our office, working together, collaborating, and communicating. Teachers’ work spaces are organized by subject area. Desks face each other, and a daily open dialog is not only welcomed, but expected. When a student experiences challenges, our teachers are sitting right next to one another. They can help to develop strategies and solutions for students in a matter of minutes. Teachers talk so regularly with one another that they can anticipate and integrate lessons across different content areas.
So, how does this change the face of teaching? Teachers are not just orators or presenters. They are adapters, modifiers, and creative thinkers. They are able to speak to students in more ways than one: through writing, webinars, videos, webcams, and more. Teachers must also have the technological savvy to foresee teaching and learning options. They must have the courage to try new things as technology constantly evolves. They are dynamic thinkers and innovators who can bring our children into the future.
At 21CCCS, we are fortunate to work with a wide range of talented individuals. The strengths of each teacher come together to make our school a different kind of place. Having our teachers work from one place means creating availability for students. Multiple teachers work in one space so that when a student needs help with a given assignment, a teacher can ask for assistance from colleagues. Many times in our school, we hear the phrase, “I’m still working with this student. He’s almost got this concept! Can you help my other student for a few minutes while I finish up?” Teachers here rush to each other’s aid and offer assistance to students constantly as a result. We don’t just work together spatially, but pedagogically as well. We’re helping to reinvent the teacher of the 21st century.
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