by Jacqueline Hicks

I recently attended a presentation at the 2016 Carl Rogers Annual Conference that both influenced me, and resonated with my own thinking. In her presentation, “Person of Tomorrow”, Maureen O’Hara shared research and examples from the book she co-authored with Graham Leiscester, Dancing on the Edge. The presentation inspired me to read their book and to review the essay “The World of Tomorrow and the Person of Tomorrow”, by Carl Rogers. I found it most interesting to consider that although we certainly have benefitted from, and still need the amazing technological advances and intellectual breakthroughs of the 20th century, they are not enough for people to enjoy success and satisfaction in the 21st century. The complexity of the world we live in now will continue to become increasingly more complex. The conditions that we deal with are changing constantly and rapidly. As a result, people are feeling high levels of stress in our society, and crisis in our institutions.

The challenges of the moment will continue into the future as complexity increases and chaos provides fertile ground for a paradigm shift that requires qualities we may not yet be developing in our future citizens. What are the necessary traits for navigating the 21st century? These are some competencies that seem important to me:

  • Authenticity, and trusting our own experience
  • Reflective
  • Creativity
  • Open to new experiences, ideas, concepts and ways of being
  • Ability to adjust to change, and deal with ambiguity
  • Harmonious in relating with others
  • Collaborative
  • Having integrity
  • Commitment to grow and learn
  • Able to live fully in the moment and enjoy life
  • Trusting of human nature
  • Spirituality and searching for meaning
  • Connection to nature
  • Questioning and challenging rules
  • Psychological literacy
  • Cultural awareness

Of course, I immediately began thinking about how this applies to educators and students. What we are teaching our students right now is preparing them more for the world of yesterday, not for the world of tomorrow. And how we are teaching them is even more problematic in preparing them for thriving in the world of tomorrow. Currently our schools continue to emphasize technological literacy and all but ignore psychological literacy. Subjects are taught as separate curricula, when in fact applying knowledge is integrated, and cultural awareness provides relevant context.

Schools can and should be inspiring, challenging, productive learning environments. However, they are often increasingly stressful places for administrators, students and teachers alike. More is being asked of our teachers, students and administrators with little or no changes to the structure of the learning environment, or to what constitutes an educated person. Consider the long days, unpredictability, disconnection (teachers from each other, parents and students), managing scarce resources, and reacting to changing policy initiatives (such as Common Core).

Education will be challenged in the 21st century to provide a different paradigm for different outcomes. It seems that teachers have an important contribution to make in providing the opportunity for students to develop and embrace the competencies for the world of the future. Are you an Educator of Tomorrow? Are you able to meet the increasing levels of uncertainty and complexity? Can you embrace and thrive in a 21st century educational environment that allows its participants (teachers and students alike) to pause and reflect, to deal with ambiguity, to have grace under fire, to take on new challenges determined by who they are and who they want to become, and to express themselves authentically? Rogers described those who would usher in the new era as having the capacity to understand, bring about, and absorb a paradigm shift. It is time for this emergence.

Education Transformations has new technologies that support this emergence, and help educators navigate through these complex changes, as well as help determine and develop what they need to become to be this educator of tomorrow. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.