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Teaching Beyond Millennials

Many of the sessions today focused on engagement and a way to increase student learning.  There is plenty of research to show that engaged students are feel more connected to their school community and that translates into better performance.

Our schools are filled with students known as Generation Z.  You may have seen them referred to as iGen.  The youngest Gen Z students are in grade 4 and the older students are now college junior.  As the Millennial generation grows into young and middle adulthood, this new generation of students, in our schools and on college campuses around the world, brings aspirations and needs much different than their predecessors.  

Several of the differences this cohort brings is their attitude toward diversity, race, racism, inclusion, mental health, and well-being.  Are we equipping schools to meet the learning needs of this generation?  Or will we continue to operate as we always have in the past?

This is important in education because we are preparing current leaders to lead classrooms and schools filled with Generation Z.  

Think about a kindergarten class filled with 5-year-old students.  Our educational system will prepare the current cohort of kindergarten students for graduation in 2032 or 2033.  This cohort will then choose to go to college and graduate between 2037 and 2039 or enter the workforce.  Regardless of when they enter the workforce, we can expect they will remain there until around 2078, when they would qualify for normal retirement.    

So, we need to make sure we are preparing the leaders of teachers who are interfacing with this generation every day.  We need to make sure we do not miss the opportunity to capture their skills and use them to help innovate learning and learning spaces.  We missed this opportunity when the Millennials arrived in our classrooms.  

Is the educational system adequate, as it exists now, to prepare this student for 2032?  More importantly, are leaders agile enough to change how they lead teachers and are teachers agile enough to change the way they teach?

What is the value of a high school diploma?  Is it enough to help a graduate earn a living wage in the absence of college immediately after high school?

How does the HS diploma compare internationally?

As leaders, we need to keep asking ourselves these questions to make sure we are meeting the needs of the generation of students we have in our classrooms today.