The kids will be going back to school very soon. We’ve bought school supplies, new shoes, had our haircuts and met our new teachers. And once again, I can’t help but notice how young the teachers seem. Maybe it’s just me – as I get older everyone around me seems to get younger. Such a sad little side-effect of aging. But a closer look, made me realize most of the teachers we have had over the past few years have been around 30 years-old or less. I normally don’t even think about generational labels, but millennials now make up a significant portion of the workforce. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), 15% of teachers in the U.S. are less than 30 years-old (nearly 20% in North Carolina). Wikipedia defines a person of the Millennial generation as being born after 1980 and of the first generation to grow up with the use of personal computers, the internet, and social networking.
In contrast, many parents of today are part of GenX – the personal use of the internet came about when we were in high school or college. Ahhhh…the good ol’ days of dial-up… remember those alien-like sounds, that could be interrupted at any moment by someone picking up the house phone. If my parents were running a few minutes late when picking me up from after-school activities, well, I just waited. There was no text message with cute little emoticons. I didn’t have a mobile phone until my senior year in high school. And it was a mini-brick sized, non-smart, flip phone with no texting, but it had a great minute plan! And we musn’t forget when MTV came out and we spent hours watching as rock bands came to life on our tube TVs (not Youtube). Good thing we could record them with our VHS players to watch later. I remember lugging heavy textbooks back and forth to school every day, and flashcards galore, and paper worksheets and boring typing classes (QWERTY and manual Tab spacing – boo!) and my first email account (You’ve Got Mail!) I could go on…
The point is there are generational differences between the parents and teachers of today. Although I tend to reminisce about the good old days, technology really is progressive in education and becomes an even stronger asset with parent and teacher support. For instance, consider the online math programs used today. When a student answers a question correctly, the subsequent question is slightly more difficult. If a question is missed, the next question will be slightly easier. This approach is amazing and so efficient – no more wasted time on math worksheets that are below learning level or frustratingly too difficult. This is leveled individual learning at its’ best!
As a culture, I’ve noticed Millennial teachers are very devoted to their careers. Many seek graduate level education in addition to continuing education credits. They seem to have a strong team-oriented work ethic and are very supportive of idea sharing and open forums. I love their zeal for fun and innovative ways to keep kids engaged. The first time I volunteered at my son’s kindergarten class, the teacher (age 29) showed me the activities for that morning and explained she had found all these activities on Pinterest and spent all weekend printing, cutting, pasting etc.!!! Afterwards, I had to go home and see what this Pinterest thing was all about.
Despite the use of technology in the classroom, teaching is still as challenging as ever. Additionally, national surveys have reported teachers cite the lack of parental involvement as a serious problem in recent years. Parents and teachers need to work together as a team. I encourage you to support teachers this year in any way you can.
To the Millennial Teacher, I pledge…
I will introduce myself and make it clear I want to help and support you.
I will ask your preferred method of communication and what time is best to reach out to you.
I will familiarize myself with the class schedule, calendar, and this year’s learning plan.
I will make time to spend time in the classroom on a regular basis. (Just think how spending 45 minutes on a weekday morning before work or at lunch can really brighten your day. Talk about a change of pace!)
If I can’t spend time in the classroom, I will do tasks at home. Such as organizing Scholastic book orders, organizing Sign-up Genius for events, cutting/organizing craft projects, etc.
I will not judge emails that seem short and trite (I know a teacher’s time is valuable.)
I will be respectful and appreciative of any differences we may have over the fundamentals of teaching.
If I have concerns, I will talk with you directly in a professional manner and attempt to reach a shared understanding.
I will hold my kids accountable for their own homework and projects.
I will help my kids be prepared for school with a good breakfast, a good night’s sleep and any supplies/tools they need.
In the end I want us to be able to work together as a team. I want to support you as a teacher and help my kids enjoy their education and feel pride in themselves.
Cheers to a great school year!
+National Center For Education Statistics; SASS 2012. Table 2. Average and median age of public school teachers and percentage distribution of teachers, by age category, sex, and state: 2011–12 https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sass/tables/sass1112_2013314_t1s_002.asp