The Millennial Problem

I’m not sure if it is normal of bloggers, but I have the inate ability to discover writers block shortly after coming up with an idea for a blog post.  This post is case in point, as I think that I created the title for this post about 4 months ago.  It was until I watched a Youtube video from one of my favorite speakers and thought leaders, Simon Sinek.  To preface the video below, there has been much discussion of the disposition of millennials, our students, and their various challenges, struggles, or unique dispositions.  Some of the words that come up frequently are entitled, enabled, emotionally detached, lazy, and the list goes on and on.

Depending on the study millennials range from those born in the mid to late 1980’s to born in the mid 90’s, so full disclosure, I could be considered apart of this group, and that comes with it’s own inherent bias.  That being said I’ve been actively listening to various thought leaders, parents, teachers and anyone else willing to rant on the subject to try and better understand this line of thinking.  The pressures of the world and it’s rapid change over the past 3 decades has certainly changed our youth.  In spite of these pressures and challenges, our youth continue to impress making the most of their world in various ways.  Having said that, I can see both sides of the argument, but I have had trouble pinpointing my logic and how to respond to this argument.  It was in the aforementioned Youtube video by Simon Sinek that I found not only a great explanation but the drive to complete this article.

 

So what makes “millennials” different than previous generations of kids?  Why do people look down on them with words such as lazy, entitled, inept?  How does this impact me as an educator?

What defines our students today is not the same principles or core values that once drove students to academic success and Sinek explains that really our youth have been dealt a bad hand. Firstly, student achievement has actually been devalued.  For lack of better terminology enabling habits of parents have created an inflated perception of success at the school age level.  This generation has developed low self-esteem because of this success bubble if you will.  Technology has layered another complex layer on their situation.  Social media is highly addictive.  The dopamine rush that social media provides youth, at a particularly vulnerable age (adolescence), has created a generation that lacks the skill sets and coping mechanisms to deal with stress and developing deep meaningful relationships.  Technology has further enabled our young generations through the instant gratification that it can provide.  On-demand gratification that our connected world can provide means that our youth often lack patience.  Be it movies, goods, or services, just about anything one can need you can get almost instantly.  Gone are the days of waiting in the mail for the big Sears catalog to pick out Christmas gifts.

This bad hand paints a pretty bleak picture.  However in education, we have the opportunity to deeply impact our youth in a positive way and I would argue that begins with some of the areas below.

  1. Creating a Culture of Trust- In the video Sinek is quick to assert that millennials have been dealt a bad hand.  Unfortunately, that means that even in the high stakes testing world that education has become to a degree we must put aside the test scores and focus on helping our students build trust in their peers and in their own skills.  Trust isn’t formed in a day and most be fostered through deep meaningful relationships that as teachers we have a chance to form.
  2. Make Time to Develop Social Skills- Much of the work taking place in our district with regards to the use of technology is focused on the 4C’s.  Front and center in this debate is communication and collaboration.  We must provide space for our students to hone these skills.  Not only are they critical to the modern workplace, but they are coming into our classrooms less skilled in this area as a result of the factors outlined above.  Making our mission of teaching these “soft skills” all the more pressing.
  3. Model Meaningful Use of Technology- Technology is a tool.  Being a tool there are times where it is and isn’t appropriate.  Modeling effective use of technology is key in helping our students understand that technology can’t resolve all of their problems.  Sometimes we need to put the device away in order to move our thinking forward.

This is by no means a comprehensive list and is really a starting point.  Your classroom and your students will dictate what really is most needed, but it is critical that we understand where our students are coming from in order to diagnose and treat the challenges that lie ahead.

 

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