New Teaching Fundamentals
Some of the fundamentals of teaching are the same, some will never change, but some have and continue to morph. Teacher leaders need to be aware, promote, and encourage new fundamentals, where and when appropriate. It is very easy to fall into teaching simple, because it’s easy, or continue teaching in the same way as others have done, without thinking how last century some of that teaching really is. Preparing new educators for a classroom full of smiling faces used to include warnings about not smiling until mid-school-year, maintain eye contact, and always have a filmstrip/video handy. Thankfully, in most cases that has changed, but preparing pre-service educators still gets what seems like the equivalent of that one audio-visual lesson, when it comes to teaching with technology.
The fundamentals of teaching in today’s classrooms haven’t changed enough, in part because the tools and the learning environment haven’t changed enough. When computer labs were the newest and latest learning environment, most lab computers were put into rows. Look in classrooms, today, and you’ll see students, who are lucky enough to have individual computing devices and handhelds—still sitting in rows. Sitting in rows isn’t a fundamental of learning.
I always fear for the majority of pre-service educators, who haven’t had the proper education in how to teach using technology, or understand the necessity to let students do some leading in that area. These bright and open-minded young educators, when they land a teaching job, are really left to whomever and whatever the mentoring program is within a district. Many times that ends up being what amounts to “things we don’t do in this district or school” mentoring. The thing is, no matter how much training or experience a mentor has, very few are prepared to offer the kind of support needed for a new teacher. The mentoring usually turns into classroom management 101, rather than teaching for the new learning environment.
If a mentor doesn’t use the latest and best teaching and learning tools, chances are his/her students don’t either. A fundamental of teaching today is that all teacher mentors need to be instructional technology proficient, and demonstrate that in lessons with students. Additionally, every mentor should have an understanding of the new learning space, no matter what the physical classroom in-school, or in-district looks like. If need be, mentoring teams should be created if all the fundamental skills haven’t been mastered by one mentor. At least, then, there would be a better chance new educators receive more of what’s needed today. Classroom management 101 can’t be the only mentoring goal. If students are engaged in their own learning—and education technology is a good way to get there—engagement will take care of itself. Educating new teachers for today by mentoring with new skills is fundamental, especially during the first few years of their teaching. We may keep more of them in the profession that way.
I know that teachers walking into classrooms each day have a great deal on their minds about just getting through the day, and that’s a fundamental that won’t change. But educators need to add another fundamental, which includes looking outside the four classroom walls to think and teach globally. It is almost embarrassing how few educators in the United States really think and teach globally, as compared to their colleagues and counterparts around the world. Educators, who don’t bring the world into their classrooms—to their students—and in turn introduce their students to the world—are doing a disservice to their students. Teaching beyond locally and learning beyond locally is a must. Parallel studies with classrooms in places around the world are a great way to start. Having global connections in every classroom should be a teaching and learning fundamental. There are so many instructional technology solutions for easily doing this, today. A global classroom initiative should be a major discussion at large district meetings, and also an ongoing faculty meeting discussion, led by school leaders. Thinking and teaching globally should be a teaching and learning fundamental.
Certainly, there are many more new fundamentals. The list could be quite sizeable, so here’s my recommendation: educators can find 24/7 support in social media, especially on Twitter, as well as build Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)— and learn from mentoring groups larger than any within the confines of a single school or district.
Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology experience, as well as a blogger on all things education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is a Promethean storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.