They say if you drop a live frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump right out. But, if you place the same frog into a pot of water at room temperature and then gradually raise the flame under it, the frog will not notice the changes and remain in the pot until it is cooked. Now, you might ask, what is the connection between a frog in a pot and what a millennium teacher should know and be able to do? My view of the connection is that there are events and processes happening around us every day. Most of the time, we do not pay them much attention because they occur so frequently or gradually that from moment to moment they do not seem to signify very much—like the gradually rising temperature in the pot of the cooking frog. Once in a great while, a potentially transformative event occurs and it makes us jump: September 11, Columbine, sending a man to the moon, or Y2K hysteria. Usually though, we conduct our routines and make our way through the day or the semester and tend to rely on the comfort of the familiar, seemingly unchanging, landscape. Yet, were we to carefully study and reflect upon that landscape, we might discern important trends that hold meaning for how we conduct ourselves presently, and in the future.
Increasing Diversity Of The Student Population
Racial, linguistic, and cultural diversity will continue to grow in the public schools. In addition, the numbers of students in special education classifications and alternative placements will likely increase. Cries for cost containment in special programs and the squeeze for classroom space within school buildings will result in more and more “non-traditional” students being placed in “regular” classes. Teachers will confront the need to become more adept at providing differentiated educational experiences for the multiple needs of students present in their classrooms, for diagnosing those needs, and for assessing student progress in multiple ways. Technology will offer much help in this area and teachers will be increasingly pressed to be proficient in its use.
It is likely that increasing numbers of adult educators will also be present in classrooms—co-teachers, support teachers, assistant teachers, paraprofessionals, and the like. Skills in team leadership and collaboration will increase in importance for classroom lead teachers. Student diversity will increase at a more rapid rate than diversity of the teaching staff. As a result, the need will rise for the teaching force, which will remain overwhelmingly white and female, to become more and more sensitive to, and adept at, simultaneously addressing differences in race, language, culture, and (dis)ability. Teachers’ repertoires of available knowledge, skills, and dispositions will be challenged to expand and become enriched. The abilities to affirm and coach one’s colleagues and students, in a spirit of solidarity, will likely emerge as highly desirable. These challenges suggest that prior to enrollment in teacher education programs, greater attention to recruitment and pre-screening of candidates already in possession of desirable levels of vision, motivation, and attitude would be wise.