Cultural Issues with Different Generations

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Generational differences have an impact on teaching approaches and educational environments. As Generation Y begins moving into teaching positions, schools must be prepared to address the needs and interests of a more tech-savvy workforce to prevent turn-over. Behrstock and Clifford (2009) argue that the field of education has been relying on the same recruitment and retention strategies that have been used for years with older generations. These strategies do not address issues around leadership and collaboration that are important to Generation Y workers and may increase the likelihood that the new generation of teachers does not continue their work in the field of teaching. The study offers ideas to help key decision-makers increase learning outcomes for students and ensure that the unique skills of Generation Y will be utilized in the educational sector. Further, it is suggested that the recruitment techniques of the private sector more effectively identify successful Generation Y candidates than do those of the public sector. Suzette Lovely (2011) also looked at the issue of attrition concerning millennials and philanthropy. Lovely cites the financial cost involved in recruiting, hiring, and training, noting that 30 percent of beginner teachers leave within the first five years. Teaching retention is examined from a generational perspective to determine if Generation Y views teaching as a potential career choice. Both studies suggest that it is important to adjust in hiring and retention practices to best fit the incoming generation of teachers, ensuring that students will have access to consistent education and money is not wasted on ineffective or inefficient strategies. Though recruiting presents issues for education, a larger issue is that of attrition. Given Generation Y's technology focus and interest in autonomy, many Generation Y teachers leave the field after a short time.

Teaching may present some challenges for the current generation of workers. Generation Y workers have some attributes that do not fit well with traditional teaching schedules and styles. For example, Generation Y workers often blend their personal and work lives. They are also likely to work on deadlines rather than schedules (Bernstein, Alexander, & Alexander, 2008). Further, Generation Y workers are more likely to value flexible work schedules, thinking that with the benefit of technology, they can work from anywhere and may respond better in environments that are not structured hierarchically (Generational Differences). Traditional teaching environments require teachers to be on campus for set hours of the day and many schools provide standardized subject-based curricula. While some flexibility may be available regarding lesson planning or free periods during the day, many teaching environments are generally inflexible, requiring a good deal of reporting on both state and federal levels demonstrating that standards are met across subjects. Further, teaching requires strong professional boundaries. Though strong teacher-student relationships are key, teachers must maintain healthy contact with students and ensure that students do not know too much about their personal lives. Of all the potential issues, perhaps the most important to focus on is that teaching is traditionally a solo activity. Generation Y is known for its connectedness and interest in networking and collaboration (King, p. 5). Teachers from Generation Y value group work and exchanging ideas. The individual nature of traditional teaching may feel limiting to Generation Y teachers and may lead to them leaving the field with less intergenerational conflict and one that is more in favor of a position that offers more teamwork.

To address the issue of connectivity in teaching, more research is needed in the area of collaborative teaching and hybrid programs. For example, some schools are now combining language arts and sciences to show the relationship between the fields. To determine whether traditional classroom structure could be changed to more accurately reflect the dynamic needs of the current generation, the question would have to ask what courses could be combined or completed both in-class and on-line to most effectively utilize networking, technology, and the collaboration skills of Generation Y.

To best support Generation Y teachers and ensure that they continue in the field of education, recruitment and retention strategies need to be changed to match the expectations and desires of the generation. By offering incentives and goals to be met (Behrstock & Clifford, 2009), schools would challenge and encourage teachers while keeping them interested in their work. This would allow Generation Y teachers to focus on goals while maintaining the necessary classroom schedules that they might otherwise find frustrating. Increasing opportunities for collaboration and communication would allow teachers to share ideas and help them to feel as though they are contributing to changes within the system, something highly valued by Generation Y workers (King). Allowing creative problem-solving sessions and including teachers in work-group meetings with higher-level administrators would also help to decrease attrition rates (Behrstock & Clifford, 2009).

With a large population of teachers retiring, school districts need to recruit new teachers who are willing and able to stay in the field for a few years to ensure that students are receiving the best education possible. To do this, administrators must be willing to make changes to address the unique skill-set of Generation Y teachers. By mimicking the recruiting techniques of the private sector, offering incentives and rewards, increasing communication and collaboration, and providing opportunities for feedback and mobility within jobs, schools will be able to reduce attrition and maintain a strong, creative Generation Y teaching workforce. Further, districts will benefit from increased connectivity, technological savvy, creative problem-solving, and a more diverse teaching staff. Though there are challenges inherent in a new generation of teachers coming into a very traditional environment, Generation Y has a lot of beneficial traits and skills to offer to the field of education. With some key changes, Generation Y can successfully lead the next generation of students.

References

Behrstock, E., & Clifford, M. (n.d.). Leading Gen Y teachers: Emerging strategies for school leaders. Southeast Comprehensive Center. Retrieved from http://secc.sedl.org/orc/resources/February2009Brief.pdf

Generational Differences Chart. (n.d.). West Midland Family Center. Retrieved from http://www.wmfc.org/uploads/GenerationalDifferencesChart.pdf

King, J. A. (n.d.). Is it necessary to develop new performance motivation and training techniques in response to the entrance of Generation Y to the workforce? University of Rhode Island. Retrieved from http://www.uri.edu/research/lrc/research/papers/King_Generations.pdf

Lovely, S. (n.d.). Will Millennials stay? Examining teacher retention from a generational perspective. California State University, Fullerton. Retrieved from http://coeapps.fullerton.edu/ed/C-REAL/documents/Lovelypresentation.pdf

Lovely, S. (2009). Generations: Harnessing the potential of the multigenerational workforce. The Catalyst, 37(3), 17-22.

Sollah Interactive, LLC. (n.d.). Generations. Retrieved from http://sollah.com/white-papers/generations/