Look who’s joining school cultures!
A new generation has just started or is about to join the teaching crew: Generation Z. They bring with them their own beliefs, perceptions, and values affecting the way things are done. Getting ready to welcome them aboard may reduce culture shock, lower attrition rates, and increase synergy right from the start.
Watch out! They are NOT Millennials.
Z-ers display distinctive collective traits that distinguish them from other generations at work. Born at the turn of the millennium, most researchers would set this cohort’s birth years between 1995 and 2012 (Stillman & Stillman, 2017). Truly global, digital, and visual in their upbringing due to common key life-experiences from entering school to puberty, Gen Z-ers display a collective mindset that distinguishes them from their predecessors: the Millennials. There are two clear aspects where Z-ers differ: their DIY mentality and their individualistic, anti-collaborative way of working.
Independent, empowered, and self-reliant, Z-ers want individual attention and expect immediate results. They value face-to-face interaction and collaboration with 24/7 availability, but may lack interpersonal skills. Opening multiple communication channels for their distinctive demands in style may engage them better and facilitate their induction process.
Institutions will need to accommodate their practices to Z’s new insights and interpretations, and Gen Z-ers will have to adjust to make the intricate transition from teacher training institutions to real classrooms. Easing the path towards both goals and providing clear professional development ladders from early age will be school leaders’ great challenge.
Mind Z’s mindset
Raised in the 2000s, some Gen Z-ers were very young during 9/11 or the 2001 crisis, but they have grown up in a complicated socio-economic environment marked by complexity, insecurity, uncertainty, and global warming. World events that have marked this generation also include wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorism (Al Qaeda, Isis, etc.), the influenza A/H1N1 pandemic and the expansion of social media, which includes the invention of Facebook and Twitter among other networking sites or services, for instance.
The sharing of these significant life-events during early childhood and adolescence has given origin to Gen Z’s collective mindset. These ‘defining moments’ have made these novice teachers age-bound in perceptions, motivations, and fears. They may also present themselves as more pragmatic and realistic, showing acquired coping mechanisms and resourcefulness. Addressing their unique needs and wants effectively will make them more productive and committed to staying!
Houston! Will we have a problem?
There is no denying that each generation shares collective traits or generational footprints that may bring people together or set them apart, generating conflicts around ‘generational clashpoints’ (Lancaster & Stillman, 2002) or ‘generational sticking points’ (Shaw, 2013) such as communication, dress code, or professional training.
Finding ways to make collective agreements and understanding that no generation is better or worse but simply different, as Stillman & Stillman (2017) propound, does provide a way out. And above all, remember the golden rule: generational stereotypes describe large numbers of people, but do not predict individual behavior (Shaw, 2013).
Opportunity, threat, or both?
Schools and related educational centers are the most generational diverse ambit. No other organization or social institution displays such a variety of co-existing generations interacting on a daily basis for two main reasons. Firstly, emerging Generation Z, is the largest component of school demographics as its members are still populating classrooms as students. Secondly, whereas traditionalists have mostly retired from workplaces, they have left their legacy of organizational structure, management practices, and policies (Erickson, 2010). This generational diversity, properly woven into school cultures, may bring about lots of opportunities for personal and institutional growth.
All in all, there is no denying that Z-ers, the first true generation of teachers of the millennium will impact school cultures and all stakeholders with their values, beliefs, and shared meanings. And they have come to stay!
Edge, Karen (2014) ‘A review of the empirical generations at work research: implications for school leaders and future research’. School Leadership and Management, nº 2, vol. 34. Available at: http://goo.gl/40eIAt [accessed May 2016]
Fox A., Bledsoe, C., Zipperlen, M. and Fox T. (2014) ‘Cross-Generational Differences: Benefits and Challenges among Teaching Professionals’. The Texas Forum of Teacher Education, vol. 4 pp. 42-62. Available at: http://goo.gl/AbKbEN [accessed May 2016]
Gravett L. and Throckmorton R. (2007) Bridging the Generation Gap. How to Get Radio Babies, Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers to Work Together and Achieve More. Career Press NJ.
Lancaster L. and Stillman, D. (2002) When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to solve the Generational Puzzle at Work. Collins Mobipocket Reader
Lovely S. (2005) ‘Creating synergy in the schoolhouse: changing dynamics among peer cohorts will drive the work of school systems’. School Administrator, nº 8, vol.62, p. 30, sep. 2005. Available at: http://goo.gl/DxP5pk [accessed June 2016]
Lovely S. and Buffum A (2007) Generations at School: Building an Age-Friendly Learning Community. Corwin Press. California.
Lucas, B., & Claxton G. (2013) Expansive education: Teaching learners for the real world. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
McQueen, M. (2014) Ready or not, here comes Gen Z! Available at: https://goo.gl/f3ho5m [accessed December 2016]
Mannheim K. (1952) ‘The Problem of Generations’ Essays on the sociology of Knowledge’ London. Routledge & Kegan. Available at: https://goo.gl/7O7cr3 [accessed May 2016]
Molinari, P. (2013) Turbulencia Generacional (3ra edición) Buenos Aires. Temas Grupo Editorial
Shaw, H. (2013) Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Singh, A. (2014) Challenges and Issues of Generation Z. Volume 16, Issue 7 59-63 Available at: http://goo.gl/AXrvuE [accessed May 2016]
Sladek S. and Gravinger A: Gen Z. Introducing the first Generation of the 21st Century Available at https://goo.gl/Iu5o2t [accessed December 2016]
Stillman D. & Stillman, J.(2017) Gen [email protected] Brooklyn New York. Harper Collins Publishers
Strauss, W. & Howe, N. (1991) Generations: The History of America’s Future. 1584 to 2069. Harper Perennial New York. William Morrow
Tulgan, B. (2013) Meet generation Z: The second generation within the giant “Millenial” cohort Reinmaker Thinking. Available at: http://goo.gl/BhoFn0 [accessed April 2016]
Zemke, R., Raines, C., & Filipczak, B. (2000) Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in your workplace. New York, NY: AMA Publications.