Apr 30 2013

Is it Time to Ditch the Phrase ‘21st-Century Teacher?’

Education advocate lists 21 reasons why educators should strike this popular term from their vernacular.

I was sitting in a hotel room last week after having spent the day stalking the meeting rooms and exhibit halls of yet another education conference (it is conference season after all), when I came across this post from former educator turned school technology consultant Richard Byrne.

Thirteen years into this “new” century, Byrne suggests it’s time for educators to drop the term “21st-century teacher.” Byrne calls the term “meaningless and redundant.” I have to agree: If you're a teacher and you are not thinking this way by now, you probably should be. 

It’s an interesting point — and not one I’d thought about before. Why do so many of us feel compelled to talk about the present as if we’re still waiting for the future? A quick Google search for the phrase turns up a whopping 41 million results. My 180-page convention guidebook lists the phrase more than a dozen times.

Time to move on?

The term “21st-century teacher” was coined in the lead-up to the turn of the century, at the same time the world was wondering if its computers and bank accounts would go haywire as the ball dropped in Times Square. We all know how that turned out. 

It’s not that society doesn’t need more forward-thinking educators. But since we’re more than a decade into the new millennium, isn’t it time that kind of thinking was more required skill than acquired taste? Let’s face it: The 21st century is here — and has been for some time. We should probably get used to it. 

Still not convinced? Byrne lists 21 reasons why he thinks educators should strip the phrase “21st-century teacher” from their vocabulary. While much of his list is tongue-in-cheek and repetitive for the sake of making a point, I couldn’t help but applaud a few of his reasons.

1. We live in the 21st century. If you’re teaching today, you're a 21st-century teacher.

2. We live in the 21st century. Even if you're using older methods (some of which have a lot of validity) you're still a 21st-century teacher — unless you're going 88.8 miles per hour in a DeLorean to get to work every morning.

3. “21st-century teacher” is redundant. See items 1 and 2 above.

4. No one worth impressing is impressed by "21st-century teacher."

5. A century is a long time.

For the full list, read Byrne’s post on his blog.    

What do you think? Is it time to discard the term “21st-century teacher?” Have a suggestion for what should replace it? Tell us in the Comments.  

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