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Preparing Future Educators: How We Can Upskill Teachers to Better Mentor Our Youth.

Preparing Future Educators: How We Can Upskill Teachers to Better Mentor Our Youth One thing education students don’t realize is…

Preparing Future Educators: How We Can Upskill Teachers to Better Mentor Our Youth

21st February 2024

Preparing Future Educators: How We Can Upskill Teachers to Better Mentor Our Youth

One thing education students don’t realize is that the job they are walking into is about more than just teaching. Sure, that’s what’s on their job description. It’s even what they will spend the majority of their time doing. But during the school week, they may spend more time with their students than those kids’ parents do.

For some kids, the teacher is the primary adult in their life.

That’s an enormous responsibility and one that colleges could do a better job preparing their teacher future teachers for.

In this article, we take a look at how to upskill educators so they can serve as more effective mentors.

The Importance of Teacher Upskilling

Upskilling is when professionals routinely update their knowledge and skills. It can take place in the classroom— sometimes even by way of graduate school— or it can be a product of smaller but more frequent professional development seminars.

Many educators will do a little bit of both. Regardless of how it takes place, it is an important, and usually legally mandatory process that all teachers should take seriously.

It’s trendy for many of these professional development opportunities to discuss tech integration into the classroom, or new curriculum concepts designed to boost—well. You name it.

Those are both great. However, educators and administrators should also focus on the social and emotional aspects of classroom management when they consider which skills to upgrade.

The Role of Technology in Upskilling

We’ve come a long way from the blackboard era. Where just twenty years ago classroom tech integration meant having a bulky desktop in one corner of the room reserved for communal use, it now means a tablet in every hand.

While the pros and cons of tech integration in the classroom could be its own article (or ten) it is a valuable tool, both in acquiring new skills, and in reaching your students.

In terms of skill development, tech makes it much easier for educators to get their professional development. Most teachers are legally required to engage in a certain number of PD days throughout the year. Their license renewal hinges on it.

That once meant taking off, sometimes even traveling to conferences. Now, PD can happen from behind a glowing screen through remote courses and seminars.

Teachers who enjoyed traveling and interacting with colleagues from all over the country may not appreciate this change. However, it does have benefits. If you are an educator working in St. Louis and there is a groundbreaking seminar on classroom-based social-emotional intelligence management in Olive, New York, that’s not something you are going to be able to get to—in person. Remote teleconferencing technology changes that.

For students, it also means gaining access to a more diverse range of materials. If you want to start teaching mindfulness, meditation, coping skills, and other mentorship-oriented skills in your classroom, it helps to have a deep collection of resources.

Kids learn differently. Some students will respond very well to the visual and auditory stimulation that digital technology provides.

Cultivating Social and Emotional Intelligence

Mentoring can also involve helping students develop their personal and emotional growth. Many educators now focus on integrating small group discussions in the classroom. Tiny segments of class time devoted to honest, supportive conversation.

Traditionally, mental and emotional health has only been discussed when a problem emerges. Good mentorship might mean helping kids gain the skills and context required to acknowledge and understand their feelings all the time, possibly avoiding the risk of serious problems.

Cultural Competence and Inclusivity

Cultural competence and inclusivity are skills that require teachers to consider and understand the fact that everyone in their classroom has a unique background. Sometimes, that background can impact the way that they learn or interact with their peers.

While most teachers would not deliberately exclude a student on the grounds of their race, religion, or sexuality, they might mistakenly use language that makes the student uncomfortable.

This naturally creates a classroom environment that is unproductive both for learning and mentorship. Many schools are now making diversity and inclusivity awareness a built-in aspect of their professional development.

However, educators can also seek out opportunities that will help them better understand all of their students. For example, LGBTQ students often struggle for acceptance. They may worry about how their identity will impact the way they are perceived by their peers. They may struggle to have their preferred pronouns respected.

Teachers focused on inclusivity can advocate for those kids, helping to make school a safer, more productive place for them.

Encouraging Lifelong Learning for Teachers

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, some upskilling is a legal requirement. However, the few hours of professional development that your state demands from you each year may not do much good if they aren’t thoughtfully chosen.

The idea that you need to upskill is, perhaps, at face value, a little irritating. You got your degree. You work in the trenches all day every day— including many off-the-clock prep hours. You do it all for near-poverty-level wages.

Who’s to tell you that it’s time to start thinking about expanding your skills?

But that’s the job. It’s to learn, and grow, and constantly reach for new ways to help your students. It is not to suggest that you are in some way deficient. It’s a simple acknowledgment of the fact that education is constantly changing. New research, new technology, new resources are always emerging to reveal improved ways to reach students.

Remember— you are more to your students than just a source of information, you are vital to keeping students on the right track. In some cases, you may be the most reliable and consistent adult in their lives. Developing skills that help you rise to that profound responsibility is an important aspect of remaining effective at the job.

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