They grew up in some of the worst “bad” times in American history. They witnessed 911 and terrorism, violence all over the media, economic debt that their grandchildren can’t even repay, insurmountable debt from college, no chance for retirement, a recession, income gaps and class division, and a shrinking middle class . They have been growing up in a world of changing values with headlines such as LGBT rights, abortion, Black Lives Matter…
Who is Generation Z? They were born around 1995 through 2010 and, for the most part, they are the children of Generation X. They have been commonly known as the IGeneration because they were the first generation to grow up with technology in their hands. GenZ’s were also the first generation to see the first black president and were a major part of the largest technological, scientific, and medical booms of the 21st Century.
So how do these children shore up in the classroom? According to many researchers, GenZ students are resilient, conservative, and cautious. They are responsible determined, loyal, compassionate, thoughtful, open-minded, money-oriented and more entrepreneurial than the millenials, or GenY. As a classroom teacher today, I don’t agree completely with the researchers. I agree they are resilient, conservative, and cautious. I can also agree that they are are determined, loyal, open-minded, and compassionate. These are great traits that we should all have. You could say they have “good bones.” Yet, I struggle to see responsible, thoughtful, and entrepreneurial. Maybe they have these traits but they need to be fostered.
Unfortunately, I worry about this generation. In the classroom…
- I see students who cannot take risks, lack the confidence to think for themselves, who are so dependent and so scared that they do not get a a driver’s license or job, or who depend on me/others to think for them and hold their hands.
- I see students who are so insecure and have so little self-worth that they must continually take selfies, worry constantly about how many followers they have on social media, need instant gratification or they fall apart with anxiety, who focus on appearances by begging their parents to buy labels–American Eagle, Abercrombie, and $200 Jordans, and insist on smart phones with no regard to cost to ensure their status in the school.
- I see students who lack creativity and imagination.
- I see children who don’t read and write much, and therefore, lack vocabulary to aid in reading comprehension and social conversations.
- I see students who lack basic grammar skills to write coherently, and I wonder if they can ever make it past their first semester in college.
- I see students who are so absorbed in social media, You Tube, Instagram, video games, music and movies that they consider education a distraction to their social life.
- I see students who are so demotivated that they don’t seem to care about their future.
- I see students who have no regard for respect or authority.
Even though I see all of these negatives, I also see the positives in our students. Again, these students have the foundation of resiliency, conservatism, cautiousness, determination, loyalty, open-mindedness, and compassion. The question is: How can we use these traits to build risk taking, confidence, independence, creativity and imagination, reading and writing skills, motivation, accountability, and respect? I wish I knew. This is my struggle in the classroom. This, I believe, is why teachers are “burning out” at record levels. As we continue to educate for the 21st Century, teaching children skills and traits they need for jobs that do not even exist yet, we need to keep in mind what these children have grown up with in today’s American culture. We also need to remember the traits and skills that we think will be needed in the 21st Century. So it looks like the skills and traits we need to work on are:
- Reading/Writing Skills
- Social skills
- Global awareness
I added the last two because they were not mentioned in my research. What are your thoughts about Generation Z? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.