Most individuals entering the teaching profession today are different.
They’re part of the Millennial generation, born sometime after 1982 and before 2004, and are often referred to as Generation “Y” or Generation “Me.” It is widely believed that each generation comes with a set of common traits and Millennials are known, on the one hand for their confidence and tolerance, but on the other hand for a sense of entitlement and narcissism. Baby Boomers like me (who, by the way, consider ourselves to be work-centric, independent, goal-oriented, and competitive) often focus in on these more negative traits when talking about the Millennials. We have a hard time wrapping our heads around why they aren’t more like us.
I recently read an article about the 5 Key Traits Millennial Consumers Share and started thinking about the large number of new teachers who are part of the Mentorship Program in my District this year. The 5 traits listed below are very evident in this group and our year of Mentorship has evolved into something completely different as a result.
- Millennials expect technology to simply work–so you’d better make sure that it does.
- Millennials are a social generation—and they socialize while consuming (and deciding to consume) your products and services.
- They collaborate and cooperate–with each other and, when possible, with brands.
- They’re looking for adventure (and whatever comes their way).
- They’re passionate about values–including the values of companies they do business with.
Our Mentorship program consists of a number of components throughout the year including 8 evening supper sessions where about 80 new teachers, mentors and District staff come together for sessions that support new teachers. A schedule is usually created at the beginning of the year based on new initiatives and feedback from the previous year. Traditionally, the sessions are led by District staff and the mentors are there to provide our new teachers with wisdom and advice.
Well this year something very interesting has happened. By mid year it became obvious that this particular group of new teachers wanted something more than ‘sit and get’ learning. They wanted more brought to the table. They craved learning in a way that’s highlighted in the 5 points listed above. So, in an effort to respond to their needs we stepped away from our traditional learning model and held an EDCAMP type evening this past February. I was familiar with the EDCAMP model after attending a few myself and organizing one when I was a principal earlier in my career. When the evening arrived I was expecting the mentor teachers to sign up and lead the majority of the sessions. After all, they were the ones with most of the knowledge and experience. By doing so they could then lead conversations that would engage the new teachers in a collaborative setting. But that’s not what happened at all. Fourteen of the fifteen sessions were added to our board and led by the new teachers. (see the board below) Our mentors were happy to step back and allow the newbies to take charge, sharing their learning and ideas. Not once during the evening did our new teachers appear uncomfortable with the format. In fact, they embraced it and were highly engaged the entire evening.
The point I’m trying to make here is that this is yet another example of how we need to let go of our traditional beliefs around Education. Not only is learning changing for kids, it is also changing for these Millennials who are entering the teaching profession. If we want teachers who are life long learners and who are fully engaged in the transformation of our Education system we need to understand who they are and what makes them tic. My plan is to do that going forward.