After two separate stints as relieving deputy principal, as well as my full time role as teacher and Head Teacher, it is increasingly clear that there is an expanding rift between the generations to be found within the school community.
Teachers, do these sound familiar?
“These kids just don’t show any respect”
“These students are just not interested in anything we do”
“Kids just want to take the easy route and are just lazy”
Are you engaged in these types of conversations in your staffrooms? Are you saying similar sorts of things to anyone who will listen?
As relieving deputy I was constantly dealing with this frustration from teachers and the fallout in terms of poor behavior and conflict. Talking to the students during these encounters it was also just as clear that the students were equally frustrated with their teachers.
“He doesn’t show me any respect so why should I respect him?”
“She doesn’t care about me and what is happening in my life”
“Its so boring, all we do is write notes off the board and have to listen to her talk at us”
“All we get is teachers yelling at us and saying how bad we are”
So what can we do to improve the situation for both the staff and the students? How can we create better teaching and learning environments so everyone comes away feeling better, feeling respected?
Some of the answer came to me at the 2011 North Coast Quality Teaching Conference when I was listening to Michael McQueen’s keynote on “The New Rules of Engagement”. This brilliant presenter talked about the differences between the generations and how that if we don’t understand what drives us there can be very little successful interaction. Check out his website, The NexGen Group, for more information.
This is what was happening in my school. Over 70% of our staff are Baby Boomers and there are some huge attitudinal differences between this group and our students who are Generation Y.
If we are going to turn things around there needs to be a greater awareness of what drives us and what we see as important. Teachers need to gain a better understanding of the motivating factors for Gen Y (and Gen Z) and, the students also need to know how to connect with what is important to Baby Boomers and Gen X.
Okay, but not every Baby Boomer or Gen X teacher has problems so how does this fit into this scenario?
There are always people who, through their personality or teaching style etc, will not have the same problems in or out of the classroom. They have, perhaps instinctively, learnt how to transcend the generational divide to both the benefit of themselves and their students. We can learn from them as well.
So, one of the main focuses for our Staff Development Day at the start of Term 2, 2011 is to raise our awareness of the generations and how to engage Gen Y so as to create a more positive teaching and learning environment. Hopefully, teachers will take on board the information we give them and embrace the activities so as to take the first steps towards a greater appreciation of what makes their students tick. And from there, I hope they will modify what they do and how they engage in the classroom. If they do, it will be a win-win situation.
I have attached the presentations if you would like to look at them and extend your own understanding of Gen Y.