Thursday, October 2, 2008

What happens when X, Y, and Z collide?

...The impact of generational change was significantly greater in the 20th century than in any previous era...With the increased pace of technological and social change, the gap between generations has never been greater. (p. 13)

McQueen, M (2008), "The 'New' Rules of Engagement: A Guide to Understanding and Connecting with Generation Y, 2nd ed., Nextgen Impact, Sydney

As teachers we're all guilty of gritting our teeth and thinking something along these lines:

Teenagers today are lazy/ignorant/self-centred/selfish/close-minded/rude

I know I certainly struggle to think kindly of my students when it feels like I'm getting nowhere, and I know I'm not alone - Kimberly James made a blog entry over on Classroom2.0 today titled, "These 'Kids' Today", in which she expressed her frustration at the members of GenY she finds herself dealing with. I sympathise with her, really I do.

It's hard sometimes to be forgiving and understanding of the students we're working with everyday - after all there's not many professions where you can be sworn at or have something thrown at you and not be able to react without the threat of further reprimand.

Lately I've noticed a clash of cultures in society - it's a clash between the established "norms" and the emerging culture. It's evident in the profusion of "fleshies", piercings, tattoos, hair dye, heavy make-up and the establishment's reaction to these things ("I don't understand.", "It's gross.", "It's dumb.", "It's inappropriate..."). This is a clash that won't go away, we can't just ignore it and hope that somehow, magically both sides will wake up and everything will be sorted. It's going to take some mutual respect and understanding to prevent this clash from causing a major rift in our society. It's going to take hard work...and research...

Michael McQueen's book, "The 'New' Rules of Engagement", is supposed to make us think about our assumptions of Generation Y. It's intent is to make us reconsider our own generational attitudes in order to give insight into the values, attitudes and beliefs of the student cohort populating our schools.

The first part of the book looks at the different 20th century generations (Builders, Boomers, Xers, Ys and Zs) and examines the influences and characteristics of each. Hubby and I laughed out loud when we read through the chapter devoted to Generation X, it was so "us". And as we read through the chapters dedicated to Y (our students) and Z (our nephews) we experienced multiple "light bulb" moments - McQueen was describing our classrooms, our loved ones, and ourselves.

"Rules" then goes on to examine the generational rift which exists between Builders, Boomers, Xers and GenY - that group so many of us have labelled so harshly and often dismissed. The final section of the books outlines some suggestions for ways to engage and connect with members of GenY.

This book should be a must read for all teachers who want to understand the students in their classrooms and look for the ways our pedagogy needs to change. As McQueen states:

Contrary to popular opinion Generation Y are not simply Baby Boomers waiting to
grow up (p. 58)

Even without needing to consider ways for education to make effective use of technology in our classrooms, if we don't understand that we're not going to provide this generation with the education they need or deserve. And that's not going to be good for anyone involved.

2 comments:

kgjames said...

I guess I'll have to check it out. ;) Interesting though the point about technology. My students are on facebook and myspace and are proficient with youtube and online gaming. But they don't seem to want to mix their online environment with education. I also have a lot of students who are resistant to using computers - period. Just one more thing I don't "get" about Gen Y!

Nic Mobbs said...

I find a similar thing with my students - I wonder if its because they think we're forcing our way into their "turf"?