Stefania Shaffer, Profile


Are You a 21st Century Teacher?

It is always a great thrill to speak in front of an audience of teachers. They are my people, my tribe! I still remember what it felt like to be new in this profession at the beginning of this century so I am happy to share a message of the realities facing new teachers coming into today’s classroom. Here is my speech from the California Teachers Summit Better Together held simultaneously across 38 California State college campuses. It was an incredible event. Thank you to the team at San Francisco State University for making me feel so welcome.

If we want to have 21st century students, we must have 21st century teachers. A long time ago, at the turn of the century (into the 1900s), there was a whole different set of rules that were expected of teachers. Don’t dye your hair. Don’t loiter downtown at the ice cream parlor. Do make sure your classrooms are warmed before the children arrive. Do be sure to clean your floors weekly and your blackboards daily. You get the idea.

Would it not be nice to have a handbook of new rules for the 21st century teacher? But alas, the captains of industry all around us already know what they consider to be “good hires.” So as we prepare our students for college and career readiness, we take a cue from what business leaders have communicated they need from employees in today’s work force.

We are in the Google era of thinking—which I define as employees who are required to:

  • quickly adapt to new group dynamics
  • meet team challenges ahead of deadline
  • and ultimately produce a winning idea that will set the world on fire

More than grit, this takes 21st century skills:

  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking to problem solve
  • Communication
  • Participation
  • Professionalism
  • And if you add in digital and financial literacy you’ve just created the well-rounded human ready for today’s work place.

It seems so obvious to us.

However, when our students hear the term Google, all they really know is how to find the work that someone else has already created. It only takes them 30-seconds and they truly believe they have just achieved the task we asked of them.

We need to teach them that the 21st century student is able to add in a new layer of insight beyond the research already available.

We are asking them to use their own brain to create a solution that has not yet been tried.

For the entire speech and solutions to try in your own classroom, click on Stefania Shaffer-SFSU Keynote: Are You a 21st century Teacher?

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