When devising strategies to make education work for the 21st century, it’s natural to think first about students. How do we prepare children for a rapidly changing world? For jobs that don’t exist yet? For the creative problem solving required to tackle emerging global challenges?
Tempting as it is to put children at the center of all our education decisions, we think we could also begin with teachers. Schools that enable teachers to build their own empathy skills, think creatively, and work collaboratively will be best equipped to build these same skills in students. Administrators can encourage teachers to identify themselves as leaders who are re-imagining learning, giving them the freedom to innovate.
Teacher-researchers strive to maintain a curiosity that keeps their learning community vital. By documenting classroom learning, they investigate the relationship between and among the children and adults at work, the ideas they are working with, how they use the tools of art and science, and their physical and relational learning environments.
The documentation serves as an ongoing catalyst in their search for understanding. It supports emerging curricula in the classroom. It drives conversations (both electronic and in person) among classroom collaborators, grade-band teams, and whole-staff meetings spanning preschool through bigger grades.
The design of the learning experience is of paramount importance for the learning outcomes, therefore design thinkers create prototypes of ideal learning spaces in collaboration with colleagues and students to understand their perspectives.
Then they test these ideas by prototyping the changes in their own classrooms, cobbling together furniture and making adjustments to gain a better understanding of practices that work well for their classes.
Changemakers are teachers dedicated to implementing social innovation among other staff members and building a culture that supports creativity and initiative, finally equipping every adult in the school to be a changemaker.
Staff thus trains student teachers to be emotionally intelligent educators with appreciation for whole-child education. Parents and teachers learn together about student social and emotional needs, including children’s need for leadership, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness.
Teachpreneurs are expert teachers who devote part of their workweek to entrepreneurially reimagining education in their schools, districts, or country systems.
Teachpreneurs play many innovative roles in their communities, including redesigning student and teacher assessments, building connections between different age range systems, and developing ways to help teachers improve their ability to learn from each other.