What do you see in this generation?

What do you see in this generation?

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I wonder if we were on a desert island with no other parents or adults around to judge – would we raise our children in the same way we are now? People can be so judgemental and I’d be rich if I had a pound for every time someone has given ‘advice’ on how to manage my child’s behaviour.

This isn’t just a parenting issue though. What about in education? This is something I’ve been so conscious of while going round schools talking about working with vulnerable children and young people. Everyone has their opinion on what works and what doesn’t. Some of us are wise enough to know it’s much more complicated than ‘this works and that doesn’t’. Every child is different, every adult is different and every situation is different.

So if that’s the case what can we do about managing behaviours in the classroom? Can we be all things to all young people? Of course not. Maybe the question is more about how do we see young people? What is their role in the world? How do we enable them to thrive and become individuals who can live in community?

The way we’ve viewed children over the years has changed: –

  • Pre 1900’s – children are just little adults and should be treated as such
  • 1946 Dr Spock prescribed tough love to foster independence
  • 1959 Harlow discovers babies use Mum for food, comfort and security
  • 1973 Ainsworth classifies babies as secure, insecure and disorganised
  • 2012 We know that Attachment is so important – it underpins our emotional, social and sometimes biological development.

Taken from video – psychologyfoundation.org

What about now – what’s the current view on how children are? Well if you know anything about generational research you’ll know that the Millennials (born between 1982 and 2000) are sometimes described as the lazy generation. 59% of millennials describe their generation as self-absorbed and 49% say they are wasteful (Mail Online).

One of the great qualities of millennials though are that they want to make a difference. They want to contribute to the world and make it a better place.

So what about this current generation – known as Generation Z (born after 2000), what are their characteristics and interestingly are we preparing them in education to be successful in later life? (taken from Huffpost)

  • Less focused – due to faster intake of information from technology this generation’s attention span is significantly lower than previous generations.
  • Better multi-taskers – due to all the distractions around them now this generation has grown up multi-tasking. When they watch TV as a family at home often all the children are on their phones playing games, while on face time with someone and watching TV too!
  • Full of early starters – this one is so important for us to be aware of in education. Predictions are that more teenagers now will go straight into the workforce, opting out of higher education, some even finishing school online. If there’s a way of learning in a less traditional way, then this generation will do it.
  • More entrepreneurial – this generation wants more independent working environments, 72% of teens say they want to start a business someday.
  • High expectations – this generation has higher expectations than the previous one as the first generation to not know anything outside of technology. Millennials can remember playing card games or playing outside but this generation less so.
  • More global – considered the first global generation due to the growth of the internet. This means there’s a feeling of more commonality with other young people in different countries than with previous generations in their own country.

So why is this important?

When I think about our educational system, particularly in secondary schools, I can’t help but think how outdated it is. In an opinion poll on debate.org on this question of ‘Is the modern education system outdated?’ 93% of people voted yes.

So what would it look like to have a system designed for generation Z?

Well taking into account the points above we certainly wouldn’t be putting young people in detention so much for using their phones. Yes, I know it’s annoying, it is to me too, but that’s because I’m of a different generation (X) when we listened differently and learnt differently. I’m not saying it would be easy to manage, but surely we have to bring technology more into learning now – and not just having ipads or laptops to do homework on?

What about the subjects we teach? Anything on entrepreneurship? Running a business? Using digital marketing? How to be truly connected to others? Productivity and effective use of time?

With all this is mind, coming back to the original comments, what about young people’s behaviour in the classroom? Is that impacted by their generation? Possibly. I certainly know that mine want more say in the way they learn, they want to be heard and not just seen. They want to be able to bring their creativity into their work and find alternative ways of learning and growing. Having to follow a rigid structure of ‘this is how we do things here’ can be difficult for this generation. They want to find the answers themselves and be recognised for that.

I found some interesting infographics when researching about this generation. It was comparing Generation X, Y and Z. In terms of a working motto – X was ‘balance work with family life’, Y was ‘never confuse your career with your life’ and generation Z is ‘we are the ‘always on’ generation’ – how true that is?

One of the other characteristics that came out was that this generation want to co-create culture. That means they want to be involved in and part of driving the culture they are in – whether that’s school, home or work. Do our schools allow that I wonder? We might have school councils but are they just a paper exercise? Do children and young people really have a say in how their school is run? I’d love to know of any schools who actually have their students help to create their behaviour policy – that would be interesting to see.

So, as ever, my blog is aiming just to make you think, consider your environment a bit more and to may be understand a little bit more about the young people in front of you. I’d love to know your thoughts – [email protected] or comment on our fb page.


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