Are you a 21st century teacher? Are you adapting to new ways of doing things? Are you challenging your students to think critically? Are you preparing them to become global citizens? Yes, I know that you have taught for years. Your students have achieved excellent scores in their Advanced Placement exams. You are highly regarded both in your school community and within your profession. Again, I ask whether you can call yourself a 21st century teacher. Let's review some of the characteristics the 21st century teacher has and why these characteristics are so important.
It is a different world.
As the United States faces unprecedented challenges both at home and abroad, the need for schools to have teachers with a 21st century viewpoint and 21st century skill sets has never been more obvious. Dynamic, visionary teachers are needed to shape the minds of new generations of citizens who will have the abilities and creativity to lead and guide our country. If this sounds radical, it really isn't. It is the same principle and thinking which caused the Phillips family of Exeter and Andover fame to found those highly-rated schools back during the American Revolution. Those school founders knew that the infant nation needed well-schooled, well-trained people to lead it in the years ahead. They believed in this country and the concept of universal education so deeply that they put their money where their mouth was and created schools which still, to this day
What's going on here? Aren't those schools sending the wrong message to their students? Not if the school takes the view that sexual preferences and one's life style are a strictly personal matter. As long as a teacher or staff member is qualified and competent, what does his sexuality matter.
We live in a far different world than was the case a generation or two ago. The old customs and mores have forever changed. To be sure being gay generates controversy and division in communities. Look at the serious schism which has occurred in the Anglican Church as a result of the ordination of an openly gay bishop.
Nonetheless, it takes courage for a board of trustees to employ openly gay staff. That's exactly what Phillips Andover did in 2000. The only catch is that the staff must sign an affidavit confirming that their relationship is a committed one. The lesson and example being taught here is profound: that a committed relationship deserves respect and should be upheld. Students who are seeking answers about their own sexuality will feel more inclined to discuss such serious matters without fear of retribution or derision. If a school is to truly champion diversity, then allowing faculty to live on campus in committed relationships is just one more aspect in teaching
If there is one thing which I have learned over many years of teaching, it is that our students learn by example. They learn not only the lessons which we try to teach them, but also lessons which by their very nature are perhaps more subtle and implied. These are the lessons which children often learn by osmosis or example.
I also know that the lessons learned and the impressions made when a child is young last a life-time. This is one of the biggest responsibilities which we teachers and parents have as adults. Young minds process information quite differently than adult minds do. We have to constantly be aware of that. That doesn't mean that we have to dumb down information and concepts. It just means that we can assume nothing when it comes to how a child's mind will process the information it receives.
The following is pure fiction, of course, but it makes one wonder how things might have turned out if some of these teachers had tried a different approach. Perhaps if they had framed their arguments differently or taken the time to ensure that their students understood what was been taught, there might have been different results.
Setting: High on one of the seven hills of Rome
Aurelius Flagellus Horribilis looked up from his table. The three discipuli in his charge were supposed to be working on their times tables. "What is taking them so long?" Flagellus muttered to himself, and got