Teacher trek: The next generation

A “clash of the generations” is taking place in schools across the country, “as more and more Millennials —those born in 1978 and later —move into the teaching ranks.” So says this story from the Tools for Schools newsletter (May 2008), published by the National Staff Development Council.

Millennial teachers, writes author Joan Richardson, follow those generations often labeled Traditionalists, Baby Boomers and Generation X, and their personality differences have implications “for the way beginning teachers teach, how they want to learn about improving their teaching, and how they will impact the culture of the schools in which they work. They will reject some practices that were successful for earlier generations — but they will also embrace some that earlier generations scoffed at.”

The article plays a little fast and loose with generational divisions. It states that: “This clash of the generations is being repeated in schools across the country every day as more and more Millennials —those born in 1978 and later —move into the teaching ranks. Teachers beginning their careers in 2008 and for many years ahead will be strikingly different from the generations of Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, and even Gen Xers that preceded them.”

No argument that teachers beginning their careers today will be strikingly different. But our question is: Where does the Millennial generation end and the next, VERY different generation (the one that has always lived in a totally digital world) begin? If we choose a popular generational breakpoint — say around 1994, when the popularization of the Internet began in earnest — then the earliest members of what some are calling Generation Z or the iGeneration are now about 14. The oldest Millennials are turning 30. The first wave of iGeneration teachers will be warming up their school laptops (or iPhone Pros) in about 2015 — seven years from now.

How different will they be from Millennials? Quite a bit, we expect. They think Toy Story represents very old animation technology and can’t remember a time before text messaging.

But we’re being picky. This article is good for at least seven years (smile). And it’s always interesting to see what the professional developers are learning. When you download the PDF, you get the entire Tools for Schools issue — including a faculty discussion starter, useful data from the long-running MetLife Survey of the American Teacher and a chart that can help tailor professional development to the personalities and learning styles of different generations of teachers now working in our schools.