Leading the Millennials

As part of my professional growth I am involved with a study group of administrators. We are focusing our growth in the area of technology and 21st Century learning and education.  We have chosen to read Leading 21st Century Schools:Harnessing Technology for Engagement and Achievement as our first book on which to focus our learning.

I have only read the first two chapters and I am already impressed by what I am reading.  I know that this will be a wonderful read filled with useful suggestions and information.

In Chapter 2: The Digital Information Age: Who Are Our Students and Teachers, Schrum and Levin describe the students in our schools today and how different these students are now from even 10 years ago.  This is something that I’ve been thinking a great deal about in the last few  months.  I’ve been pondering different ways of reaching these students, motivating them, and inspiring them to learn and develop a love of learning.

In this second chapter, the authors also talk a great deal about our teachers: who they are and how to lead them.  The authors focus much of their discussion on the “Millennials” – those born between 1980 and 2000.  Many of these “Millennials” are teachers in our schools today.  I’ve thought a lot about the other generations of teachers and how to help move them toward 21st century learning, but, to be honest, I just figured that the newer teachers, the Millennials, would just “get it”. They have used technology all their life.  Technology IS their life and has been all they’ve known.   I have, however, heard some complaints about the Millennials, which could be summed up in the Wordle below:

While I haven’t had a great deal of difficulty dealing with people in the Millennial generation, according to the authors of Leading 21st Century Schools, there is a particular way we must lead the millennial generation if we are going to retain them and develop their skills in the profession.  Schrum and Levin describe Claire Raines findings about what the millennials expect from the workplace. In particular, the authors list and describe six of the most frequent requests of millennial employees:

“1.  Leadership. This generation has grown up with structure and supervision, with parents who were role models.  Millennials are looking for leaders with honesty and integrity.

2. Challenge. Millennials want learning opportunities. They want to be assigned to projects they can learn from … and “trying new things” was the most popular item. They’re looking for growth, development, a career path.

3. Collaboration. Millennials say they want to work with people they click with. They like being friends with coworkers. Employers who provide for the social aspects of work will find those efforts well rewarded by this newest cohort. Some companies are even interviewing and hiring groups of friends.

4. Fun.  A little humor, a bit of silliness, even a little irreverence will make your work environment more attractive for Millennials.

5.  Respect. “Treat our ideas respectfully,” they ask, “even though we haven’t been around for a long time.”

6. Flexibility. The busiest generation ever isn’t going to give up its activities just because of jobs. A rigid schedule is a surefire way to lose your Millennial employees. ” (pg. 35-36)

Therefore, as Schrum and Levin point out,

“leaders will lose their Millennials if they do not meet their high expectations, discount their ideas because of their lack of experience, tolerate negativity, or feel threatened by their technical skills. …  school leaders need to capitalize on, value, and make good use of their many positive characteristics, or they will move on.” (pg. 36)

I found this so interesting because this description of the Millennials remind me so much of what we are talking about when we discuss the need to develop more 21st century skills in our schools for our students: to engage them, motivate them, challenge them, and involve them in their learning.

To move forward our education system, we must move toward teaching those 21st Century skills, not only to engage our students, but also to engage our youngest teachers and to retain these teachers in the teaching profession.

Here are a few interesting articles on this topic:

Talking About Their Generations

Harnessing the Power of the Millennials

Here is a great video as well, made for teachers to think about how they are teaching today’s students.  But, I also think that we, as administrators could learn a great deal about how they lead by watching this video and thinking about, not only the students in their schools, but also the teachers, the Millennials.

If you’re not using blogs, email, wikis, the internet, podcasting, and technology to lead, You should be! (This is a quote from the video that I changed slightly – I substituted the word “teach” for the word “lead”.)

How are you leading the different generations?


Published by Tia M. Dawson

There are many things that define who I am as a person. First of all, I am a mother of 3 wonderful children! I can not express how fortunate we are to have our children in our life! Secondly, I am an elementary educator who recently returned to the classroom after 12+ years as an elementary school administrator. Lastly, I am passionate about helping others, learning about abuse, helping others in abusive relationships, and helping others understand their worth.

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