I believe that the central role of the teacher in educating children in our fast-paced and ever-evolving society is to teach each student by teaching all students, while making an active effort to improve one’s professional practices.
Teaching to each student while teaching to all students may seem paradoxical, however within the classroom environment, the actions of each student can have a profound impact on the education of other students. Student actions, words, writing, and thoughts, both positive and negative, can create unique opportunities for organic, student-centered and student-contributed learning; build or erode a collective sense of community; and affect a teacher’s control over his or her classroom. How a teacher responds to such student contributions, whether positive or negative, can determine how effectively a teacher will be able to meaningfully communicate the content to his or her students. However, if a high school teacher has 100 students every day, they are not expected to create 100 individual lesson plans. Rather, we must teach to all students by keeping in mind that the contributions of each student matters deeply. We as educators must not only be passionate about the material we teach, but passionate in our efforts to include each student. We must teach to all students by not leaving a single student out of the process. We must maintain control over our classroom while encouraging positive student input, and recognize that when we begin to marginalize any one student, it will have a larger impact on a class as a whole.
At the same time, teachers must continually evolve to adapt to the ever-changing nature of 21st-century education and the society that demands it. We must be willing to accept a variety of methods to connect students with knowledge and understanding, including computer technology, knowledge bases, professional practices, and materials that allow educators to better provide a relevant education to their students. However, just as important is our need to self-reflect on a daily basis. We must be conscious of the effectiveness of not only our planned lessons, but our classroom management, and keep in mind how the teaching of all students affects each student, and vice-versa. By constantly making attempts to improve our daily performance in the classroom, we may adapt to the ever-changing standards of modern education and meet the needs of our students.
I believe that above all, teaching is about passion, effort, and awareness. We must be passionate about the material that we teach but also about the art and practice of teaching itself. We may not succeed in all our objectives, but we must always, above all, do our best. We must be aware of the effectiveness of our teaching practices, and aware how our students are understanding and responding to our teaching. If we allow ourselves to slip in any of these three areas, our overall effectiveness as 21st-century educators suffers.