August 24, 2013
Wrap It All Up: Talking About My Generation (Part 6)
I wrote this series as a means to better connect the generations. We know that we are different. We had different experiences, different ideals, different technologies, and different lifestyles. But those differences do not have to get in the way of connecting the generations.
I originally started learning about the generational characteristics several years ago when I started teaching college. My desire to be a positive influence and affect on my students meant that I had to understand where they were coming from. I have students of all ages, from all walks of life, with all different experiences. Plus, I started teaching really young. I was 21 when I first walked into my class at the University of Oklahoma as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Then, when I started teaching full time, I had the added complication of my colleagues. I worked with Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, and Generation Xers, and here I came, walking the line of Gen X and Millennial. I had to figure out how to communicate and connect with students and colleagues…fast. So, I sought to learn about the generations.
I feel like what makes me a better teacher and colleague is my sympathy and empathy for the generations. I know what struggles face Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials alike. I also know their strengths. Gen Xers work amazingly well on their own. They will work hard to finish a job to the best of their abilities, and that usually means with ingenuity, but also attitude. Our independence, as well as our challenging of authority, drive us, of the Generation X. I totally get that.
Millennials, on the other hand, succeed better when they are in teams, and they tend to prefer smaller teams. I do a lot of class discussions, and I have learned that if I first break them into small groups to consider each others’ ideas and then open the room up for a full class dialogue, we have a more fruitful discussion because they are social and love teams. Plus, they love when I incorporate technology. Furthermore, because I now know that the Millennials are products of their helicopter parents, I know that I have to emphasize ingenuity, problem solving, and personal responsibility because they have likely never had to use any of these. But Millennials are fast learners when they feel respected.
Baby Boomers need a little bit of both independent work and group work, but their drive for working pays off. They will be my hardest working students and will do everything in their power to exceed my expectations. They will also struggle the most with technology and demand the most help from me on this.
I have not had a Traditionalist as a student, but as a colleague, I know that they work better with me when they feel I respect their values and beliefs, whether or not I share them. They also respond when they see my commitment in action. They want to know loyalty from me.
Somehow, though, the three generations (Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennial) meld in my classrooms and work together. It is truly incredible to see. Part of that comes from some of the assignments and readings I have them do to learn about generational characteristics and differences, but this also comes from the deep down goodness of all people.
Our experiences shape us. We can never forget that, and we must remember that as we look to the different generations. When we can better understand how and why people are they way they are, we can better help all of us. That is why generational understanding is important.
Image Credit: Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock