The “New Normal” Life of a Teacher

In the age of accountability, college readiness, and the Common Core, the role of PK-20 teachers is changing dramatically in schools and communities across the country. We used to think of teachers as masters of their domain and rulers of their classroom. They took the standards and the curriculum frameworks that their school or District gave them and provided students with instruction and assessment to help their students master the content. Since then accountability has come knocking on the doorsteps of schools and classrooms everywhere. Teachers are no longer the masters of their own domains but rather an integral part in an educational system designed to provide students with a more rigorous, integrated, and personalized learning experience with support structures and interventions designed to help them succeed on their learning journey.

In a recent Te@chThought article, How Teaching is Changing: 15 New Realities Every Teacher Faces, writer Terry Heick describes how the role of the teacher goes well beyond classroom management, testing, and content delivery. Heick identifies fifteen realities that the modern day teacher faces. These include things like the personalization and individualization for all students, the increased understanding and use of technology and technology resources, and the designing of more highly integrated learning experiences that bridge multiple content areas and better connect home and school. Heick’s article is a good starting point for school administrators to consider when reviewing candidates for open teaching positions in their schools.

As I reflect in my own hiring practices as a high school administrator I have seen a shift in what I look for in a potential new teacher who is looking to join a team at my school. I expanded on this idea recently for Competency Works in an article entitled Working in a Competency Education School: Hiring Tips for Potential Teacher Candidates. There, I described the need for “team player “teachers who work closely with their Professional Learning Community team members, teachers who accept the philosophies of a standards-based assessment philosophy, teachers who have an extensive understanding of their content area, ones who can differentiated instruction like never before, and ones who understand how to provide not only quality instruction but quality re-teaching, re-learning, and enrichment time to students on an on-going basis. Unless you are a teacher who completed a teacher preparation program in the last couple of years, chances are the skills I described above are ones that you have had to pick up on the job or through professional development over the last few years.

Teacher preparation programs across the country are on notice. The Obama Administration’s report Our Future, Our Teachers, released in September 2011, outlined a plan that included a focus on institutional reporting and state accountability, a focus on reform financing of students preparing to become teachers, and the targeting of support to intuitions that prepare high quality teachers from diverse backgrounds. The roadmap has been set for higher education to respond to the current and future needs of the teacher profession.  

Teachers today are left with a “new normal” that defines their profession. It is time for the rest of us to stop looking back and instead embrace their new normal and all of its promise as a way to finally restore America’s educational system to an elite status. Our teachers are our future, and their expertise and unwavering dedication to their profession will be the difference in the lives of our children for generations to come.

This article was originally written for MultiBriefs


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