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Redefining the Roles of Teachers in the New Normal Education: Part 1 - The New Roles


The ongoing worldwide pandemic has spread for over 3 years and changed our lives in all aspects. In education, the sudden change in teaching and learning has put teachers in difficult situations. According to the report Language teaching experiences during Covid-19 published by British Council (Mavridi, 2022), an overwhelming majority of teachers struggled in their professional life and with their well-being.


Things now seem to have returned to normal in most parts of the world. However, the current normal is not exactly the normal we used to enjoy. It is the new one with many challenges, which force teachers to adjust their roles and equip themselves with essential skills to ensure the effectiveness of teaching and learning.


The New Normal Education challenges


The first obvious challenge is that the pandemic has innovated our teaching philosophy, practices, and routines. Whether we want it or not, we must adapt to these new changes. An example of this is that teaching now is not seen as teachers standing in front of the class, but teaching now can be virtual with the students interacting with the teachers via tech tools.


Second, we need to learn new technologies to cope with the situation. It is true that before the pandemic we did use technologies, but during the COVID, everyone has witnessed the boom of tech tools, which will definitely continue after the pandemic.


The third challenge – emotion – has a huge impact on all education stakeholders. Due to the mandatory and unprepared shift to online classes, everyone suffered traumas or negative feelings of isolation, stress, and uncertainty. Therefore, teachers must be well aware of their own and others’ emotions and how to deal with these feelings effectively and cleverly.


Fourth, despite the physical and emotional distance during the pandemic, it is critical for teachers to maintain and strengthen the relationships with students, parents, and colleagues. It is said that strong relationships in-and-outside school can significantly improve students’ motivation and learning outcome. (EdTrust, 2021)


As hard as it may sound, with all these formidable challenges, teachers must continue to ensure and enhance students' learning outcome in this new normal education. What roles should we play as teachers in this challenging time?


Teachers’ new roles


Role 1: Autonomous lifelong learners


A joint statement from UNESCO, ILO, UNICEF and Education International issued in 2020 emphasizes the significance of learning: “To build a more resilient teacher workforce in times of crisis, all teachers should be equipped with digital and pedagogical skills to teach remotely, online, and through blended or hybrid learning, whether in high-, low- or no-tech environments.” (UNESCO, 2020).


Learning helps us to adapt to the sudden changes in education. New research findings and advancements in methodologies and Edtech are reported every day. Only with learning can we utilize new technologies, improve our teaching practices, and enhance students’ learning. Learning also helps us to improve our life skills, such as communication, building relationships, or controlling our emotions. All these enable us to overcome the challenges mentioned above.


Role 2: Life-skill educators


“Our world is changing fast and we need to prepare our students with the skills and experiences that go beyond simply learning an additional language.” This quote is from Cambridge in reference to the Life Competencies Framework for the students.

Despite the tradition, a teacher’s job now is also to empower students to become independent citizens, who can live and work in the uncertain time. Students in the New Normal need not only scientific knowledge but also need teachers to teach them the life skills, which according to the Cambridge Life Competencies Framework (see photo on the right), are as follows:


· Lifelong learning

· Collaboration

· Problem-solving

· Communication

· Digital literacy

· Critical thinking

· Creative thinking

· Social responsibility


Role 3: Innovators of change


With what the pandemic has brought to us, innovation has become more critical in education. As for teachers, they are no longer the “content dispensers”, but they must always try to be the “creators of engagement.”


To do this, teachers should not only focus on how to link innovations to teaching or learning, but also bring innovations to change education systems. This addresses the diversity of the new teaching and learning context, offers more supports for teachers and learners, and provides all teachers and learners with the necessary skills to create a better future for themselves and their communities.


Role 4: Motivators




In this era of uncertainties, being an effective motivator is one of the keys to success. For ourselves as teachers, that is how we motivate ourselves to learn, to stay up-to-date with technologies, and to fulfill our teaching job the best we can.


For our students, one of the essentials is that we must motivate them both inside and outside the classrooms. While doing this in face-to-face classroom sounds more familiar, motivating them in virtual classes can be challenging. How can we motivate them when they are not within our sight physically or when they leave Zoom and turn off their computers? An effective tip for this is to create projects or problems for the students to work on. As the final purpose of learning is solving problems, teachers can create personalized, hands-on, real-world problems for students to solve. Working on these projects, they will connect their lives and their world with the content and the tasks, which let them in turn see the purpose of learning and increase their motivation.


Role 5: Bond builders


As relationships play a very important role in our society and education, building the bonds between teachers and other stakeholders is essential if we still desire to ensure and enhance the quality of teaching and learning.


To become effective bond builders, teachers need to build relationships with students, parents, and colleagues both inside and outside the classroom. Teachers can utilize technology like emails, video calls, or social networking sites to build and maintain these relationships with their “clients”. Good relationships will allow us to motivate students, understand their problems, and stay connected with our colleagues emotionally and professionally.


(To be continued)


* This article is first published in ELTIreland Bulletin Vol. 9 (issued 22 February, 2023). https://www.elt-ireland.com/_files/ugd/f2294c_f2b238a4e5e54413915bf0f22afd51d1.pdf. (Accessed 3/31/2023).


References

Mavridi, S. (2022). Language Teaching Experiences During Covid-19. British Council

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