For this module of our course, we have been focusing on 21st century learning and how we can use that in our coaching relationships. This ties in with ISTE Standards 1, 3 and 4 for coaches. The topic of 21st century skills and learning is a broad one, and one that I could do an entire blog series about. I have worked to narrow it down by asking the question: what can coaches do to support teachers in 21st century skills and learning? Though this question can also be broad, in this post I hope to do my best to share some strategies coaches can use to support their educators.
I started with this graphic as a refresher for myself on the 4 C’s of 21st century skills. A quick Google search of the 4 C’s will result in a plethora of websites, articles, and books. They are well known in the education world, and a good place to start if you are looking to add 21st century skills into your classroom instruction. This can be a good place to start for coaches with their educators. Many teachers are already incorporating pieces of the 4 C’s into their daily instruction, so it will feel less intimidating learning about them. Coaches can then work with teachers to more intentionally add the different areas into their teaching.
21st Century Skills in the Workplace
From the 4 C’s I decided to research more about coaching in the workplace and how it’s being used to support staff. I came across an article from Forbes that I found highly interesting. It does not directly relate to the world of education, though the messages can be applied to any work place situation because after all, teachers are also employees.
The article starts off with a focus on mental health. They share a survey from Harvard where over half of those surveyed have had a mental health issue. From there, they break it down into generations (Millennials, Gen-Zers, Baby Boomers) and the percentage that have quit a job due to stress or mental health challenges. Unsurprisingly, Millennials and Gen-Zers are more likely to quit due to these challenges while Baby Boomers are more likely to stay. As the younger generations begin to make up a higher percentage of the work force, it is no wonder that mental health at the workplace is being brought up. The article pushes for leaders to focus on the mental health of their employees by having coaches and building a culture of empathy. A quote from the article that resonated with me says:
“To be a great leader of people, it is essential to understand the very essence of human behavior to get the best of both the team and the individual while creating an atmosphere that allows them to do their best work. It is essential that coaching and psychotherapy strategies play a crucial role in the growth and development of future leaders across the corporate environment.” (Kaufman)
How does this relate to coaching teachers? Even before COVID-19 the teaching environment was full of stressors. Teachers’ brains are constantly churning and making decisions all day like rapid fire. Teacher burnout has been a concerning trend for years, and one wonders what that will look like with this unprecedented year of teaching twists and turns. Coaches, like CEO’s or management, need to focus on empathy and the mental health of their educators. At times, it will be important to push and challenge, while at others it will be important to be a support and letting them know that it is okay to do what you can. By being a supportive leader, we are in turn teaching our teachers how to be supportive leaders to each other and their students.
Characteristics of a 21st Century Teacher
Now that we have made teachers’ mental health at the forefront of our consideration in coaching relationships, we can move into characteristics of a 21st century teacher. It is important to remember that when working with our educators, we do not want to overwhelm them with a giant list of things they can work on or improve. I would suggest to take one or two to share with your educators. Here are some of my favorites from Edutopia:
- Students as producers: Our students are mainly viewed as digital natives, as they have grown up with technology. One way to give them a chance to practice their skills is to allow them to use that technology in a meaningful way. Give them choice to produce blogs, podcasts, movies, or other digital media to share their learning or as the final product of a project or unit.
- Learn new technologies: It can be daunting and scary to keep up with all the various technologies available. However, technology is not something we can learn “once and for all”. Being willing to try and learn new things is an important skill to model for our students, and something coaches can model for their teachers.
- Project-based learning: Thanks to the internet, students have access to experts and peers all around the world. Students can be given a challenge or prompt that is something that relates to the real world. They can be given the chance to develop their own question, conduct their own research, talk with experts, and create a product to share. In this kind of learning, teachers become facilitators and students are truly able to take charge of their own learning. As a bonus, these are usually the projects that students remember for years to come!
- Go Global: Take history to the next level! Students no longer have to learn about other countries and cultures strictly from textbooks. By talking to people from other parts of the world students can learn languages, culture, and communication skills. There are also virtual field trips or Google Earth available on the web that students can use to see what other parts of the world look like.
With all the research that I did, I have come to the conclusion that the simplest answer I can come up with for my question is for coaches to build relationships with their teachers and support them. Of course, there are more details and skills that will relate into that but by showing them that you care, that you are willing to learn and do these skills with them, they may become brave enough to take the plunge into 21st century skills and learning. What 21st century skills do you think are essential to today’s classrooms? Share below!
- Foltos, Les. Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin, 2013. Web.
- Garcia, Juanita C. (2012, February). Professional Development in the 21st Century – Nine Structures for Coaching and Mentoring. IDRA. Retrieved from https://www.idra.org/resource-center/professional-development-in-the-21st-century-2/
- Kaufman, Jonathan. (2019, 11 October). Mindset Matters: How Coaching And Psychotherapy Set The Framework For Leadership Of The 21st Century. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathankaufman/2019/10/11/mindset-matters-how-coaching-and-psychotherapy-set-the-framework-for-leadership-of-the-21st-century/?sh=3fccde9035b9
- Palmer, Tsisana. (2015, June 20). 15 Characteristics of a 21st-Century Teacher. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/15-characteristics-21st-century-teacher
- Rich, Elizabeth. (2010, October 11). How Do You Define 21st-Century Learning? – Education Week. Teacher PD Sourcebook. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2010/10/12/01panel.h04.html