Michael McQueen on decoding todays students

This is the last post from the Principal conference and the second on Michael McQueen I thought worth sharing.

In this post he identifies 7 paradigm rifts if we are to understand todays students:

  1. The concept of truth being an absolute (black and white) which I take from my baby boomers era is now seen by later generations as relative (meaning shades of grey).
  2. Respect which is a core value and once bestowed because of role must now be earned and be reciprocal. Teachers may to go first in the giving of respect, more than 1/2 way and watch their language as behaviour is language.
  3. Communication is 24/7 for Gen X and Y’s as they are always in contact on their smart phones with a “short is better” function. They have a fear of “not knowing” but there are growing concerns here, namely: physiology simply their hands become too sore to write for long periods thus achieving some measure of quality, they lack deep sleep as they don’t switch their phones off, they have less face to face contact with people so they miss out on body language which leads to less empathy, and finally their vocabulary (of 14 yo’s) is down compared to 20 years ago which promotes frustration and sometimes violence as they don’t have the words to express their thoughts. (Boys that’s a lot to digest and perhaps contest!).
  4. The value of patience is getting lost in the world of instant gratification. The old sayings of life is meant to be hard or work hard and you will be rewarded (delayed gratification) are now being replaced by instant enjoyment and not being bored. TV drama shows display frenetic life clips in 30 minutes and the generations see that as life. When things get hard we must have set the wrong goal or there must be something wrong with me as I’m not the first. Our youth hear our adult conversations about adult anxieties  so youth struggle and have panic attacks when things get hard. Persistance is now hard.
  5. The need for constant affirmation is here where us baby boomers seem to have to praise Gen X and Y’s for simply turning up. We have moved from my generation’s  internal self affirmation to a dependency feed on a steady diet of external affirmation. Michael suggests this dependency for external affirmation drives social media and the likes ones seeks from posting comments. He goes further to suggest the these generations see constructive feedback as a personal attack – this sort of explain some students reactions to teacher feedback. We need to constantly prop up everyone’s self-esteem so we give everyone ribbons for participating and rewards are now seen as entitlements.
  6. The future is now not a linear path where we work hard in school (possibly deferred gratification) and then go to university and to a secure and well paid job. Now we keep our options open
  7. The Gen X and Y’s do learn differently with more noise. Michael does point out the difference between noise and interruptions which do affect the quality of learning and the advantage of using digital technologies wiped out (read Facebook being open at the same time we are trying to complete some writing). He also points to the need for silence which is needed for creativity, reflection and solitude.

My hope is that sharing his rifts we might understand and better be able to work with youth in schools.

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