The Next Challenge in Education: Teaching Gen Z

As teachers, even if we swore we wouldn't, we sometimes find ourselves saying, "Kids these days!" And with good reason. Generations change, and more rapidly than ever before with rapid technological shifts. Check out this introduction to a new series on reaching the latest generation--Gen Z. Click through, my fellow educators, and we'll strategize together.

Every year since 2015, I've done a spring series that counts down to summer. Last year, I discussed Simple Spring Engagement Tips. Before that, I did Spring Tech Tips. In 2016, I did Google Classroom Hacks, and way, way back in the balmy days of 2015, we all learned about some Spring Survival Tips together.

So with six weeks left until that glorious moment each year called summer break, I am bringing you an all new summer countdown.

Tips for Teaching Gen Z

I always make these spring series about what's been at the forefront of mine and my colleagues' minds. This year is no different. One thing we have all been commenting on lately is how, well, different the students are now.

And that's a result of a few things:

As teachers, even if we swore we wouldn't, we sometimes find ourselves saying, "Kids these days!" And with good reason. Generations change, and more rapidly than ever before with rapid technological shifts. Check out this introduction to a new series on reaching the latest generation--Gen Z. Click through, my fellow educators, and we'll strategize together.
1. Adults have been saying this about children since time immemorial. I'm sure we always will. I love
Mark Twain's saying that "The past doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes." How true, and it's sprung an all new verse with Gen Z.
2. The paradox that the only thing constant is change is true.
3. We have a new generation on our hands, so Millennials, step aside for Gen Z--they're officially here.

Generations as we know them (i.e. The Greatest, Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and now Gen Z) are largely a product of advertising. But it's a useful product. We love to group people, look for commonalities, and in some cases, market to them.

And, idealistic notions about education aside (which I still do have), we are marketing to our students in a sense. We are teaching them a curriculum the value of which we expect them to accept. In order to "sell" that acceptance (because this generation does not accept "just because"--whether they "just should" is a conversation for another day and something largely out of our control as educators).

As teachers, even if we swore we wouldn't, we sometimes find ourselves saying, "Kids these days!" And with good reason. Generations change, and more rapidly than ever before with rapid technological shifts. Check out this introduction to a new series on reaching the latest generation--Gen Z. Click through, my fellow educators, and we'll strategize together.
So who exactly is Gen Z? Well, they were born in the mid nineties and on. We secondary educators began to see them in our classrooms at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. I noticed a moderate shift in student attitudes and expectations about then. But as they have come of age, I have noticed a major shift. I haven't spoken to a single teacher who has been in the classroom for over 10 years who hasn't noticed this.

Here are some observations that I (and people way smarter than me) have made about Gen Z:

1. They have smaller attention spans than previous generations.
2. There's a lot of "noise" in their lives. They don't always listen unless we are addressing them directly (one-on-one).
3. They are more interested in what "real people" are doing (on social media platforms like YouTube) than in popular television shows or movies.
4. They never, ever have to be bored and don't expect to be.
5. They already are, or anticipate being, entrepreneurs.

Over the next five weeks, I intend to discuss how we can capitalize on these characteristics in the classroom, rather than just lament (as I am prone to doing) how much "kids these days" have changed.

I hope that this is a useful series for veteran and new teachers alike. I'll have ideas that you can use in your classroom immediately in these last, trying days before summer vacation.

Be sure to check back in next week for a really important one--Tweaking Lengthy Lectures for Micro Attention Spans. I hope to see you then!

And be sure to comment below about some of the biggest changes you have noticed in this new generation of kiddos and strategies you have for reaching them.

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