What do teachers do differently?

As learning changes, so does teaching. Teachers in modern classrooms are taking on new roles and new responsibilities, which means developing new competencies and shifting ways of working. Every industry has to change to respond to changes in society and the economy. It’s never easy for anyone to have to learn new skills while on the job. But there really isn’t a choice unless we want the traditional system to continue to produce low achievement and inequity.

Making the transition to modern schools, means that teachers will have to learn new practices and unlearn others. It often means challenging assumptions and changing mindsets. But, it is also incredibly doable, and incredibly worthwhile. Teachers who have evolved their practice to keep up with changes in learning consistently say the following: “I know my students better, I help my students more, and I am growing as a professional.”

So, what changes are we talking about? What does this really look like?

I see

I hear*

I see teachers as guides. They design classrooms to engage student voice and choice to tap students’ intrinsic motivation. The most important thing I can do is help my students own their learning. Once I help them build these skills, it’s not just me telling them what to do. We work together.”
I see teachers as instructional specialists. They use different sources of information to understand where students are in their learning, where they might have gaps, and are ready to help students identify and correct misconceptions. I used to think delivering content was the only way to teach. Now I understand that I teach children, not teach content. I take the time to understand where students are in their learning and then look how I can best meet their needs within the classroom so that they are getting the help then need to make progress.”
I see teachers creating. They don’t work from a textbook or a one size fits all curriculum, they work with students and peers to design personalized learning experiences and pathways. I used to follow the script. Now I think about what my students need. Designing personal plans for each student sounds like a lot of work, but it’s manageable because my students are driving their learning. We create together, then they own their path.”
I see teachers as facilitators. They don’t deliver content, they facilitate applied learning experiences that are connected to the real world and driven by students’ interests. We’re taking our learning out into the world, and bringing the world into our classroom. It’s so much more fun for me when our work is grounded in something real, and it’s more meaningful for my students too.”
I see teachers being responsive. They don’t give each student the same support, they use a variety of culturally responsive tools and strategies to meet each student’s needs. They integrate the right supports for each students including language learners and students with special needs. Each of my students is unique, so my classroom is designed for differentiation. There are many different ways to access learning, engage in learning, and express learning. I take special care to be sure that the supports I have in place are culturally relevant. By ‘designing for difference,’ I can meet all my students’ needs.”
I see teachers using assessment for learning. They don’t test to see if a student learned, they use multiple forms of data to monitor each student’s progress and pace, adjust instruction and to provide timely supports. Meeting students where they are doesn’t mean teaching them ‘at their level.’ It means developing strategies that allow them to build up grade level skills or higher. It also means monitoring where they are and making sure they’re moving forward. I use lots of data to monitor and support student learning, and it makes my teaching so much better.”
I see teachers being advocates. They build strong, supportive relationships with learners and families. They communicate frequently with all stakeholders to support student learning. They help learners and families access resources to address social, emotional and psychological needs. I know my students and families. Part of my role is to make sure they have what they need to engage in their children’s education. We work together across the school to be more responsive to students. This isn’t a ‘nice to have,’ it’s essential.”

Questions to Consider

  • How do teachers in your school experience their work? How do you know? What data do you use to understand the teacher experience?
  • How does this teacher experience compare to your own, or to your colleagues’? Where are the points of connection? Where are the differences?
  • Which aspects of the teacher experience resonate the most with you? Why?
  • Which aspects of the teacher experience raise questions for you? What questions do you have?
  • Which aspect of the teacher experience are you most interested in exploring? Why is this your starting place? What more do you want to learn or understand?

General Resources

Specific Practices