"‘Gen Y’ Teachers Want to Innovate; Education Leaders Lag Behind" edweek article

"‘Gen Y’ Teachers Want to Innovate; Education Leaders Lag Behind"
By Sabrina Laine

from the article:

Generation Y teachers, those 20-somethings who connect with their friends via online social-networking sites and live with the world at their fingertips, are inherently going to be incompatible with a stagnant education system that can be painfully isolating and uninspiring. Will the system bend to their will or break their spirit? What does the answer mean for the future of public education in this country?

Whether schools nurture or negate the ideas of Gen Y teachers will be the 21st-century litmus test for their ability to lead in a knowledge-driven, global economy that is growing increasingly, and exponentially, competitive as our students fall dangerously behind. Just as the workplace is learning how to integrate Gen Y professionals on the brink of the biggest labor shortage in history, schools need a lesson in leveraging the next generation of teachers to take learning to the next level.

Generation Y teachers want to create, not conform. They want to color off the page, but are told to teach to the test. They want to work in small groups, but are given unmanageable numbers of students. They want to commune with colleagues online and across the school, but they are confined to their classrooms and limited to one-on-one teacher mentoring. They are sometimes pressured by peers to maintain the status quo, but they want the power to make a difference. They want financial stability and respect, but the importance of their role is monetarily marginalized. They want to co-teach, job-share, receive bonuses, and try their hand at leadership roles, but unions and politics can be unmovable barriers to work/life balance and optimum job satisfaction. But most important of all, Gen Y teachers want support from their leaders to innovate and inspire their students."

Any reactions to the article?

Tags: 21st+century+skills, administrative+support, innovation

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The thing is, we need more agility between the teacher and all the other layers. The teachers in this article sense that. The problem is, every time we try to make an experiment, try to see if we can change things in some way that makes the system more agile, certain political and labor bosses do their best to shut down the experiments.

To me, education as a whole is where aerospace and software engineering were 25 years ago: We have these incredible profession-wide problems with quality control. The bean counters among us have stepped in and said, "We Have to Measure the Problem". So, we're buried in testing and accountability - the plus side is we now know for sure where the problems are, the downside that the previously effective areas are now made less effective.

What these new teachers seem to get is that they can take it for granted that their work can be judged from outside their classroom. That being so, they feel, they ought to be rewarded with pay, freedom, and opportunities to improve even more. Time in place is not how they want to be judged.
We have common ground here, Ed, with the issue of "We have to measure the problem" and I think you're exactly right. That's *exactly* what happened.

But I think the crux of the problem is that we didn't stop to figure out what the problem was before we started measuring.

When I consider school assessment -- on any level from teacher assessment of student, to assessment of teacher performance, to effectiveness of schools -- i'm reminded of the old joke about the guy coming out of the bar to find a fellow on his hands and knees under a streetlight looking for his contact lens ... you all know the story and the punch line ... "No, I lost it back there in the alley, but the light's better here."

That's where the profession is.

I'm really sympathetic with the perspective of these "Gen Y'ers" -- horrifically overgeneralized against a cherry picked subset of data as this article may be -- but I can't help wonder how they'll feel about it when they start getting evaluated by people who have no knowledge of what they do and become victims of a political system with only loose ties to actual performance.

Makes me think of another old saying.

"Be careful what you wish for."

Sounds like this discussion as envoked some really strong opinions! That is a good thing. The educational system is a series of schools and educators who work in them! There are lots of excellent classrooms and education happeing today-many incorporating web 2.0 technologies.

Frankly I am an over 40 teacher who teaches in the computer lab and i have just as much trouble getting the new younger teachers to incorporate technology as I do the younger ones! In fact right now the teachers I have helped to set up their own wiki pages are the veteran teachers. The 5 younger unmarried teachers are off at the end of the day. I help them just as much as the older teachers-I do not see it as an age issue. What I do see it as is a value issue!

I have seen some positive change. We are finishing the first semester and the teachers are seeing the projects the kids are doing and they love seeing the kids excitement, they enjoy the posted pod casts that they children have made , and the kids excitement is pulling them in!. Next week I start inservices with them because they ask me to do it---That is positive change--

My computer lab is full all day every class period. I have given up my daily prpe period each day and have an open lab at that time. I now have teachers staying and working with me and the kids instead of dropping them off. I do ask teachers to stay with the kids if I am giving up a prep period to help with class work! This has led to many teachers staying during regular computer class sitting down and doing the activities with the kids. They are just as proud of their efforts as the kids are!

I stay late every night! Students come by for the first hour after school to use the computers for classwork and I am there to help them. Teachers stop by after school as well and we plan collaborative lessons together. It is exhausting work I rarely leave before 6:00 p.m.- But---it is working.

Education can and will change-but it is done one teacher and one classroom at a time! Okay it's not a perfect system-consider it a challenge to work within it to make education an engaging experience for the students.

Keep going! We're cheering for you, with all the energy you're putting into helping people learn new skills and becoming agents of change (for the better) themselves.

Yes, this brings up another issue: I don't necessarily see the younger teachers being innovators, being the early adopters, being even all that creative about the use of technology in the classroom. It used to be that innovation was the HALLMARK of youth--but ed schools have swung so much in the direction of "coverage of materials" and "delivering information bits for testing purposes" that some students of education--the really creative ones--actually are wounded (stilted, not nurtured) in their teacher-education process. Now that's a big problem to address.
I agree with Connie. Champions like you are going to make the biggest difference, Kelly.

The innovation adoption curve is pretty clearly laid out and the problem with most of this stuff is that it has to be experienced to be understood. People tend to do the things they know how to do, and getting some new kind of effort into their cognos depends on several factors.

So far, one of the most effective motivators is "Cool." That's probably not what the kids call it now, but the point is the same. Cool is why memes go viral. Cool is why a particular brand of jeans/pants/shirt/music/computer is adopted. A teacher's ability to tap into cool -- especially cool tech -- can often spell the difference between adoption/adaption/innovation and stagnation.

You're definitely tappin' into Cool, Kelly! :)
Yes, indeed, Kelly--echo what Nathan said about champions like you!
Yes, why not education becoming flexible instead of just flexing muscles and power?

"I do think online can even help improve the quality and standards of education. I think this should be THE SELLING POINT to politicians, parents and society as a whole." And a lot of the proof is in the pudding, of what students can do online, what they produce, how their writing and communication skills can take a giant leap forward... that should be a good selling point.
Just a note outside the discussion--about how a threaded conversation like this gets displayed. Wouldn't a diagram-page be cool? Something like the way the software "Inspiration" lays out ideas. It's hard to display a branching diagram in linear form... Just a thought for the network designers amongst us.
Hi Frank,
Thank you for sharing that word, "technoconstuctivism." I've never heard that word before. I think it's perfect! Absolutely perfect.
I'm a Gen Y teacher I guess... though I never knew we were called generation y. Besides that, I started teacher when I was 22. I've been at it for about 5 years now, and this is my 3rd year in a solid school district, and I love most parts of the job.

I teach middle school and I love the challenge that it gives me every day. Hell, the challenge to keep up with some of these kids is great enough at times! I'm always trying to try new things, but most of the time I can't. I have state testing constantly looming over my 8th grade science class. State mandated tests that test not only on the 8th grade material, but material from 7th and 6th grades as well. I want to add so much more to my classes, and I have noticed increased interest when I started to use power point last year.

While in my 7th grade classes (I teach both), I don't have the serious constrains that I do in 8th grade, but the district mandated a standardized midterm and final exam, to make sure that I'm teaching the same exact material as everyone else.

I am find that I am confined to what I can teacher. I wanted to implement using a classroom blog, not only to use it as a communication device between myself and parents, but I also wanted to use it to create a dialog between my students and myself about what they are doing in class. I was told that it was against board policy and my heart just sank deep. I mean they sent us to a conference that Will Richardson was speaking at, about using blogs, and to come back and have the door slammed in my face didn't feel right.

Don't get me started about the over testing of our students here in NY either.

So yeah, I feel that my will is being broken at times, and that I have to fit in this one mold. Having to get permission from ever where and everyone just to be able to implement something off the wall to help teach. ( I was going to do a lesson on Ecology using Viva Piñata a PC and Xbox 360 title...permission is still pending *ugh*) I love teaching though, so I'm just being forced into the mold that has been set before me even though I don't want to be.



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