The importance of teaching, learning, and leading during a time of change
- Barbara Holzapfel, General Manager, Microsoft Education
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week and we want to take time to say thank you to educators.
The knowledge, skill, versatility, passion for their profession, and commitment to their students that teachers exhibit is always visible. But the incredible effort that educators around the world have made in recent months to quickly adapt to remote learning is worthy of special recognition. So, as it’s Teacher Appreciation Week, I’d like to express my heartfelt admiration and gratitude for all that teachers everywhere are doing to face the unique challenges that this year has brought.
The current need to be physically distant highlights the importance of staying connected virtually, and teachers are finding innovative ways to continue meeting the social, emotional, and academic needs of students while linked only through screens. And we’re seeing teachers succeed despite the difficulties. Across the world, educators are creating opportunities for students to share their feelings, encouraging empathy, and even finding creative ways to bring milestones like graduation online.
With education systems around the world changing at a very fast pace, it is critical to better understand the insights and perspectives of teachers to see what the profession might look like by 2030. So, for our latest work, “The Staff of 2030 and Future-Ready Teaching,” we leveraged interviews and survey results from our previous whitepapers, “The Class of 2030 and Life-Ready Learning” and “Emotion and Cognition in the Age of AI,” and partnered with The Economist Intelligence Unit to gain insight into the ideas that the next generation of educators hold about their chosen profession.
We specifically sought the input of a group whose voice too often goes unheard: pre-service and early-career teachers. Over 1,000 teachers from 10 different countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, Poland, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and United States) were surveyed. Among the group, 52 percent were student teachers, and 48 percent were in their first two years in the classroom.
Interestingly, there are now up to five generations in the workforce at the same time, creating an entirely new generational dynamic. The two youngest generations, Millennials and Generation Z, will compose nearly 70 percent of the workforce over the course of the next decade while the previous three generations are still in the workplace. The youngest generation—Generation Z—currently sits in the classroom as K-12 students, in higher education institutions training to be teachers, and in the staff room. And since Generation Z is the largest generation ever, they will soon be in the staff room in large numbers.
So, teaching as a profession is becoming younger. And the survey showed that this generation of teachers has a strong focus on values, ethics, and a sense of social justice. Close to 50 percent of the respondents expect to devote more time to teaching about global issues such as climate change and to have an increased focus on social and emotional learning. For them, work must involve both purpose and passion.
And due to increased global mobility and immigration, ethnic, cultural, and economic diversity in the classroom is increasing. The survey revealed that though 92 percent of the next generation of teachers say that classrooms are getting more diverse, only 38 percent feel that they were adequately trained for teaching in a multicultural classroom. And while 60 percent of early-career and pre-service teachers expect to increase the use of technology to help students develop future-ready skills, only 38 percent feel that their training equipped them to use digital technology for instruction. These factors contribute to feelings of stress and burnout, and only 26 percent say their training equipped them to manage such feelings.
One of the most compelling findings of the study is what teachers say they need most to feel supported in their profession. Competitive salaries and professional respect are important, but what they most request is an environment where administrative distractions are minimized, and collaborative professional development is encouraged. Deep collaboration between teachers, such as through mentorships and peer-to-peer information sharing networks, is one of the best ways to help teachers learn from one another and evolve their practice, but very few teachers report engaging in it. Only 9 percent of teachers say they provide observation-based feedback to colleagues, and only 21 percent engage in collaborative professional learning or mentorship meetings at least once a month.
The events of the past months have accelerated the rate of change in education, as schools around the world continue to develop their ability to deliver quality instruction remotely and in hybrid live and virtual models. And as we look toward the future, it’s never been more important to increase the training, development, and well-being of teachers with expanded opportunities for peer collaboration and information sharing. It’s also critical to ensure that they have solutions to the real-world challenges of increasing diversity in the classroom and have the training and tools to leverage technology in remote and hybrid settings. With stronger support in these areas, educators will have more time to spend doing what they’re most passionate about: helping students achieve more.
To see more of the data and details uncovered by the new study, “The Staff of 2030 and Future-Ready Teaching,” request the full whitepaper, watch the video, and download the infographic. And for tips to make the most of tech in the classroom, see our popular “You Can in :90” series of videos. We’ll also be sharing some stories about teachers who really inspire us during this Teacher Appreciation week, so make sure you look for them on our blog starting tomorrow.
And, if you’re a teacher who is looking for ways to connect to a thriving community of passionate educators who are constantly learning, growing, and working together to change students’ lives and build a better world, take a look at the courses available on our Microsoft Educator Center. There, you’ll find many engaging and informative learning paths, especially our new addition, “Leading Schools of 2030.” I also encourage you to consider applying to join our Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Expert program. MIE Experts share their learning with colleagues and other educators through local training programs in their own school systems, presentations at conferences, blogs, social channels, and more.
Once again, a very special thank you to teachers everywhere. Your tireless dedication and enduring passion is an inspiration to us all.