Channel: Edris Khamissa
21st Century Skills
Attributes of a head-teacher in the 21st Century
In school, there's no classes on how to make friends, how to buy a house, how to Love A Child, how to talk someone out of suicide, or how to figure out what's important to me as a person, not knowing how to do these things, is what messes people up in life, not whether they know algebra, or whether they know how to analyze literature. You know, it's a very, very powerful quotation that you start off with, because we're not trying to diminish the knowledge of these subjects. But if that is going to be the sole preserve of education, and teaching in the schools, then you are doing a serious injustice to these children. Because we are gregarious animals, we are social beings, we are part of
our society, and we got to live with other people, and is how we manage those relationships can either either be positive for us or negative, our happiness is not so much your ignorance about those subjects, but rather our lack of knowledge in terms of how to engage with others. And that's important, we want to live in a world of peace with this harmony with this cultural understanding, the understanding of the other, the acceptance of the other. So we do not live in a racist society, not necessarily with his religious prejudice, not in a society, for example, in which they are nationalistic boundaries that are imposed on us that we cannot transcend those boundaries, to engage
with other people that I need. And that's part of our humanity. It's a very, very powerful and evocative thing. Because one of the things that saddens me sometimes I asked teachers, what is your philosophy? And I heard one teacher said, If I teach my child, one plus one is two, and he knows it. I'm very happy. Now I said, what, what that is, is understanding of what he is all about. He doesn't realize the negativity that he has with him. And I think such individuals are toxic to the system, that toxic to the individuals because none of his learners will remember him for anything that is positive. But they remember him for being a taskmaster, a person who never understood what education
is all about. I think, now that we into the third CD, we understanding Yes, that we need to make a change. Are we saying yes, we want to move into the 21st century classroom? So then, here's my question, what are the necessary 21st century skills that need to be taught at school? Let's first talk about some of the core skills.
The one skill is collaboration, and teamwork. Again, there is an emphasis moving away from the individual that has been, in essence, a recurring theme in our earlier schooling, and also a teamwork, the idea of developing interpersonal skills, and also interpersonal skills, so that you, yourself, have positive thoughts about the others. The second thing is about developing really your creativity and your imagination, fundamental. And you find also, the third one is critical thinking. And last one, problem solving. In fact, just for your information, and before we discuss the other general skills, they were the graduates from the University of Southampton, and they will ask this
question, what was to them, a, perhaps a severe deficiency in the schooling, in what they said, they said, sadly, in our school, they never taught us creativity, or how to solve problems. And these are the two fundamental things that we need in our workplace and in our studies. So that is the core values and these skills that I spoke about are skills that education is
people who know what is going on in ever changing society, subscribe to give me the just the four skills again, the first one, I know you said, collaboration and teamwork, number two, creativity and your imagination, number three, critical thinking and the last one problem solving.
So these were the now I would also inshallah, perhaps, you know, talk about the general skills that we also need to know, right now, you know, these are the core skills, right? And somebody listening is gonna say, Well, I know those, right, if you can give me now
The general skills, because general skills I think is what will help me give me an understanding on how to get children to collaborate, how to develop this creativity and imagination, and how to develop critical thinking in the child. I'm worried our develop critical thinking in an eight year old, perhaps a 15 year old, yes, I'd know what to do. But a teacher listening, how are we can we advise them on that I'm just going to give you the general things that I want you to talk about. And then we think problem solving. Now, somebody's going to say, well, problem solving is just to do with maths. How do we problem solve in the other subjects as well? Because the focus is still me
doing the academics, right? So we're not going to detract from that. But you're going to give me now, the added skills to help me focus on these core skills. You see, let me just give a very brief response to what you said before I look at some of the fundamental literacies that we speak about. Now, you find the there was a time they The question was,
let's say in an English lesson, jack and jill were playing in the park. The question was, who was playing in the park? jack and jill? Simple? What were they doing in the park? They were playing? Where were they playing? They're playing in the park. So some of us think that's the sum total. But another person could ask the other question,
from your experience in today's society? how safe is it to play in the park?
You see, now you find you could ask another question.
If you look at them playing in the park, these are young people, what image comes to your mind?
And they say image of innocence?
Then you ask this question. When you grew up as adults, we tend to lose our innocence.
Right? In the happiness playing there together?
Right? What are the possibilities that because of the media, because of dysfunctional families, they they too, will lose the innocence. I'm not talking about the sexuality, but generally they will lose the innocence. So again, it creates a lot of discussion. So what I'm saying to you also like problem solving, asking questions like you know what, okay, this is a situation, what do you think is a solution? How do you think we need to go about doing it, I don't have to provide the solution as the teacher correct. Now what happens we have a tendency of providing the solution, providing the solutions, it's just easy as a teacher to do that. And more importantly, there is a concept called
metacognition. Now, when, for example, when someone comes to an answer, before you say yes or no, you ask the person, how did you come to the answer? Now, what are you doing? You exploring his thought processes? You're learning about his thinking process? If you got it wrong? That's also a fair question to us. For example, collaborative learning. Let's say you and I in the classroom, a teacher asks you a question, you raise your hand up, you're about to answer. And the teacher says shamima, before you answer, share your answer with me. And together, give me a answer. What are you doing? I'm acting like a sounding board to you a critique, I might agree or disagree. So you're
learning to share? Now I remember there was this one particular workshop, where a person asked this question, he gave them a task, is I want you to find a solution. Immediately, each one began to work on their own. He says he,
he says, Why are you working on your own? I asked you to work on your own. Why is this part of our indoctrination at school? He says, tell me from the industries that you come from. These are powerful people in the industries. Do you encourage teamwork? They said yes. Or do you encourage individuality? That's the whole idea. In other words, in other words, we want thinking, creative human beings that leave our schools, who have a vivid imagination, and who are problem solvers. Because there are people today, for every solution, some of them got a problem, but there are those for every problem, have a solution. Now, I love that, you know, with these four core skills, you
gave a few examples for the teacher because just listening to that, even if I'm not teaching English, I got an idea on how to develop these core skills. Now, if you can move on to the fundamental literacies you know, the extended skills, no, no, these are the fundamental I would say the fundamental literacies are really starting off from the bottom right. And, and these skills are necessary so that students can cope with everyday life situation.
Number one is the nominal literacy, teaching them to read and write. Write two is numeracy, the whole idea about numbers, mathematics, one, so forth, then you have what you call scientific literacy. Then you have also the ICT literacy, then you have as number five, a financial literacy. And then you have as number six, you have cultural and civic literacy. Now, if you look at all of these things, firstly, when you become literate, you have access to information and to knowledge, to numeracy, you learn problem solving skills, you learn mathematics, scientific literacy, you begin to understand how science works. And the achievements in science and ICT. It's about, again, you know,
your technology technology, then financial literacy is something so fundamental, how does the financial world work in terms of budgeting, so on and so forth? and cultural and civic literacy is about the long and short of it all? How do you engage with fellow citizens in your community? Now, these are the fundamental literacies. Now, you know, I love this fundamental literacies that you gave me because it actually ties in with my quotation that I started with. In a way I'm saying that schooling doesn't teach me how to buy a house, and it doesn't teach me how to get a friend
out of wanting to commit suicide, it doesn't teach me how to make friends. But are you saying to me, yes, I can make it about all of that, I can make it about helping a friend, I can make it about learning. And what I like is that you started off with the numeracy and literacy. So you saying, Yes, guys, you still do your normal teaching. Because you've got to still impart the knowledge, I can't very well go around all day, affirming the children and saying you this wonderful children, and I love you to bits, but I've got to be imparting them, you know, imparting some knowledge to them. But using these core skills, and these fundamental literacies as well. In fact, in fact, if
you look at from the fundamental we go now, to the competencies, right, and the competency is basically, it's about how a young people can respond to difficult tasks. And we mentioned those four competencies, the competencies for but early on, collaboration and teamwork, we spoke about creativity and imagination, we spoke about critical thinking and problem solving. Now, these four that we spoke about initially, are the ones that they develop as they spend little more time in school, you start off with the fundamental, you understand. So these four will help them to cope with those tasks. But more importantly, shamima. More importantly, something that we need to focus
on, something that you alluded to, are the character qualities, that they be able to develop through these developing these skills. So what you're saying is, we start off with the little kids with these fundamental literacies, these fundamental skills that they need. And while developing that in them, as an educator, I should know that those are the core skills, I want to develop in the child problem solving, I think develop problem solving in a four year old, who's in my, you know, pre, pre first grade classes, but I can develop in that in them. Because if there's a child coming to me crying to say somebody else's taken away his pencil, we can find a solution to the problem. And I
can say to the child, well, what do you think you should do? Should you go up to him and grab it from him? Should you? Was it the right thing you did when you pushed him on the floor, and he started to cry, and you then teaching the child that I've got to solve the problem in an amicable way, and teaching the child also social responsibility. I'm teaching child empathy, and find a solution. But I think teachers are gonna say listening to this now, hey, I've been doing that. It means I've been developing these core skills, just without realizing it. So I think if we get our teachers more aware that you've got to be focusing on these things, and these are the things that
fall under these categories, the teachers, they're gonna say, oh, man, I'm ready for the 21st century classroom. I've already been doing it. I just need to push myself a little bit further. I need to just change my mindset a little bit. Put in the word creative in my thinking, when I'm doing my preparation for the next week. And if I just right
Creativity at the top of each week's paperwork that I'm going to do and you know, we teachers have really lots and lots of paperwork. But if I write that in big, bold, colorful writing at the top of each week's task, I'm going to remember to do something creative for that week, am I not? Right? Absolutely. That's a point. I think what you are emphasizing that sometimes when teachers go to the classroom, they forget what is the overarching purpose? What do I need to achieve through this particular lesson? And because what happens when the lesson becomes an end unto itself, then it becomes problematic, where the children are not able to connect it to why am I learning this? They
want to know? What is it in for me, you understand, and when the educator understands that he is helping these children and themselves, to have a dynamic classrooms so that these young graduates will be able to thrive in society, they'll have the requisite skills to cope with that environment. Okay, I just want to move on to a further example, in a in a classroom, I'm a senior teacher, senior grade teacher, and I teach geography so I need to teach the children about farming in South America, or farming in Africa, wherever? How can I put in these core competencies in it, you know, I've got to give them some of these facts.
I've got an idea of what I think should happen in a classroom. But if you can just tell me how I can make it fun, make it creative in the club with the kids, okay, you can create real life scenarios, you can say there is a farmer, right? He has this particular challenge. These are the resources he has, these are the resources he has, how should he utilize those resources, problem solving, problem solving. The other one is, for example, that he he wants to buy, for example, it may be some equipment for the farm. But there are two people offering it. One, maybe offering it slightly cheaper, slightly cheaper. But the other person, for example, is a much more established individual,
what would you choose? Would you go for the bargain, you know what I'm saying to you, in that view, what you are really doing, you're exposing them to the real world, you know, for me, shamima, more than anything else, you know, when you want to really create dynamism in the class, it requires a lot of preparation on your part. But you feel good, because you have really stimulated the mind. Because children, you must understand the attention span today is five minutes. So you got to keep on changing the state your methodology, from group work from talking from outside the classroom, engaging them individually, you understand dramatizing things, using the web, a whole range of
things. So in other words, you are not predictable, you are an inspiration, and you are telling the children the end, I can do it. I have the ability, because this is fundamental in terms of all classrooms. Thank you Idris, for that example. And you know, as we going through the interview, I'm going to be asking you for lots more concrete examples. Because I think what the teachers need to hear is that it's things they doing in class, it's not having them go through a retraining. And and I have to now relearn how to teach someone to leave the teaching profession. It's me.
I agree, stop you there. One moment I thought struck me and I don't miss this thought, right. I recall that I studied through UniSA
through UniSA. Right, and the English and the other study that other universities. Now, when I was teaching a poem, I used to go to a teacher, I say, shamima. What do you think of this poem? If you were not a UniSA? student at that time, you would have said, You know what, Kami sermon? I never did that from class. But if you ask the UniSA student, he says, Come, let's look at it together, because they were cooked with the particular critical skills. And that's a fundamental point, you know, then children sometimes will say to you, you know, you tested us that in the exam, but you're going to teach it to us. I know teachers say this was I say this as well that we've got to test you to see
what you know. But we've got to expand you further. We want you to think we want you to have this critical thinking skill. And I think that is the fundamental skill that's lacking in our children. Now talking about skills ages, what are the necessary character skills that a child requires in the 21st century classroom? I think one of the points that
We spoke about is the environment, the landscape is changing both the external landscape and the eternal landscape of the child. There are a number of things that we need to understand, for example,
we want to develop in that particular child, a sense of curiosity.
And I recall this one response, there was once this Nobel laureate.
And he was asked this question to whom would you attribute your success? And you want it for physics. He says, you know, what I attributed to my mother. And they were surprised the people interviewing him, he said, Your mother, it says, you know, many mothers would often ask the children, what have you learned today? But my mother had a different question. She is to ask me what good question you asked today. And that led me to be curious to ask questions, and to create in me, you know, a kind of discipline for research. So curiosity is number one. Number two, you learn about being showing initiative.
Because you got to be proactive, rather than reactive. The third one is, you begin to develop what you call persistence, and a kind of grit, and a kind of dogged determination to succeed. And also, because it's a changing environment, you learn about adaptability. They say you adapt, or you die. adaptability.
And this, to me is something that is missing in many, many schools, developing in young people, leadership qualities, because we do not want them to be blind followers. We want them to be critical thinkers, we want them to have self belief and say, Yes, I can do it to unleash the potential Hee ha, you know, I've done it. And last but not least, you know, the aspect of social and cultural awareness. And more than that, I think, you know, if you are in a faith school, you'll also have your spiritual and a moral dimension. Because the issue of ethics are critical in our society. It's not about manipulating others for your own ends, but rather engaging them so that together, both of
you can be winners. So these are some qualities that are so critical, that will be developed in a dynamic school, a dynamic institution that is ready for the 21st century education. back again to my example, he said, I'm just going to take two, I'm going to take your first character skill that you spoke about the sense of curiosity, give me one example and how to develop it in a 1012 year old.
One of the easiest ways is as an educator, you encourage Kressley, you encourage it, you do not become impatient, you do not demean any student who's asking you a question. No question is bad for that individual is a burning question he or she has, and you find the way you respond to it. And when you applaud students for asking those questions, you will find many more students will ask questions. And you find when students do ask questions, and if they're assessed, they say yes, I remember that class, I vividly remember, I asked a question. And that was the answer that I received. So you create a sense of curiosity. And it can be done not only in a laboratory can be
done in any situation, you develop that. Okay, one more, I want an example on his third one, you spoke about develop persistence to succeed. Now, you know, I know the child will try in a particular subject that just can't get a concept. How do I develop in that particular child that yes, it's okay to fail. But you've got to try again and again and again.
Sometimes, you know, when students come to school, they say, you know, Ma'am, I could not answer the question. Then you go to ask him, How much time did you spend? He says, spend say X number of minutes. Tell me how did you tackle this?
Did you see it from this perspective? Did he not do this, do not do this, do not do this. And when the person realizes that if I was more dogged, if I was showed more grit, if I was more persistent, and perhaps I looked at it from another perspective, I would have found a solution. Now, it also happens
When you as a teacher, an educator, you got to give children self belief, you got to enhance the self esteem, you got to give them hope and say, You know what? shamima you can do it. You know, I know you can do it. And this is important. So that means your attempt was good. But you just missed out on this particular point, don't you want to go back and look at that component, and give them a little bit of a hint, a little bit of a nudge, and allow them to do it on their own? Because you must understand, if someone gives up almost immediately, what they are saying, I'm useless. I cannot wait. Absolutely. And then if I'm useless, I'm not interested in the rest of the lesson, because I
know I'm not going to do well in it. And then the teacher tends not to like me, and we perpetuating a vicious circle. Absolutely. Okay, now, we need to do so much in high school, we need to do so much in a classroom, with our children. And with talking to the parents as well. Now, I've got to get permission from the seniors at my school, am I right? So my question to you is, what should be the attribute of 21st century head teacher or principal? You know, before I give you that, in the 21st century school, in fact, going out and doing those things would be a norm? With the classroom? is normal, the soul preserve? It'd be automatic? Is you thinking outside the box? See, you're gonna
see, what I want to say is that, yes, me as a teacher, I've
intrinsically accepted that I need to make some changes, and I wasn't doing something that was totally of benefit to the child. But how can I get my principal, to accept this as well and to for both of us to be moving in the same direction, and you'll find it in the attributes I'm going to share with you. There was a survey that was done where head teachers were asked this question, identify eight or nine critical attributes, and the first attribute, they spoke about vision. Now you find that every school needs to have a vision, what is our vision, what we want to develop, right? A student who is able to feel at home and comfortable in the 21st century, that's a given.
Then we ask ourselves, what is our mission? How do we get there, what is the means we use, we look at our methodology, we look at a whole range of things. So the head teacher must be a visionary. He is an instructional leader, also, he must be an inspiration to both the teachers to the parent community and the learners. The next quality is you must have courage. You must be prepared to take risk. You must be a person there and say, Oh, I you know what, I don't think it's gonna work. I think the fallout could be too much No, no, remember this
it favors the brave the person who is prepared to make that mistake, the person is prepared to learn from his mistake. The third important aspect is this, that he or she must be resilient, you do not give up, you do not give up also, very importantly, you got to have a passion for what you do, you got to be any you got to be excited, you know, you find that you know, I say sometimes some head teachers should be rather be morticians in should work in a morgue, rather than being at a school. They do not belong there. Like some doctors do not belong to the profession. You find, when you go to a school, you say, hey, that headmaster, she was she, I like the style. They fit in beautifully
at the school. Also, you got to have the powers of persuasion. Because if you believe in something, you've got to share it with people around you so that they say know what, we believe in you. Let's go in it together. You also got to have very importantly, a sense of curiosity. You got to go outside the bounds of your own score. And say, I wonder how you know, Mr. Ahmed, or Paul is doing, how's Mr. unsual doing or how this dynamic head teacher shamima is doing? You understand? Let us go let us engage with them a sense of curiosity.
The other two points that I want to add is that
what we want is creativity. Finding outside the box solutions, being very, very creative in your imagination, the way you run the school, the way you manage your teachers and
Last but not least, you must be a person that is amenable
to new ideas, and also receptive to criticism. If you have these qualities, I believe you develop them, I like to believe that you're going to be running a dynamic institution, and the teachers are going to say, Hey, I like it. It means you've given me so many of the necessary 21st century skills,
that I want you to just now recap everything that you've said to me so that I don't miss out anything. You spoke about the core skills that one needs. In a 21st century classroom, you spoke about collaboration and teamwork, how to develop creativity and imagination, the importance of critical thinking, as well as problem solving, then you went to the very core of it, the fundamental literacies that are needed. The very basic where we start from there, you spoke about your numeracy, your literacy, scientific literacy, ICT, literacy, the financial literacy, and cultural and civic literacy. So that would be the basis and then that would develop the core skills, the four core
skills that you spoke about, then the competencies is how would these young students respond to problems
in their lives, then you spoke about character skills, and developing in children a sense of curiosity, them showing the initiative, to start with something and to do something then you spoke about, children must develop persistence to succeed. And they you remember, you gave me some examples, how adaptable are children, teachers need to develop that in the children, teacher needs to develop leadership qualities in the children develop social and cultural awareness amongst the kids, as well as spiritual and moral dimension. If it is a faith based school, or depending on the kind of school you're at. And then the final, but to me was the most amazing, which is the attribute
of a 21st century head teacher as it were, because he is the most important person who can lead this change that we wanting, he needs to be visionary, and an inspiration to everybody. He needs to have the courage and be prepared to take a risk, especially with this change that we wanting to happen. He needs to be resilient, that means he could try something, and it could really not work. But he should not give up. He should have a passion for his craft. He must have the power of persuasion, which means he's got this beautiful ideas, he must be able to persuade the team that under him, he needs to have a sense of curiosity, a sense of creativity, which is the thinking out of the box. And
then the last two, he must be amenable to new ideas, as well as acceptable to criticism, and they, my heat that I'm using is definitely definitely gender neutral, meaning our head teacher could be female as well.