Archives For Generation iY

Every year, teachers tell me they receive new “mandates” from the top. They’re asked to include new methods for teaching math, new standards for reading levels, new disciplinary measures and new procedures for advisement or study hall. One faculty member said to me, “Basically, our score card changes each year.”

Well — I’ve got a new one for you teachers.


According to two reports released by the Daily Mail, schools are being requested to instill values and responsibility in their students. According to Joan McVitte, president of the Association of School and College Leaders, this has to be a top priority. The Harvard Graduate School of Education shared a recent poll indicating that 70 percent of public school parents want schools to teach “strict standards of right and wrong,” and 85 percent want schools to teach values. Research suggests that many overworked, frayed parents, doubting their capacities as moral mentors, are now looking to schools to take on a larger role in their children’s lives. They now “expect their child’s teacher to be a moral advisor”; the one who offers life skills, ethics and social norms to their offspring.

Richard Watson, a futurist and founder of “What’s Next,” which charts trends in society, business and technology, said schools are increasingly expected to teach beyond conventional subjects to give children a moral framework for their lives. It has resulted in parents blaming teachers — and threatening legal action — if their children go off the rails or misbehave outside the classroom.

Hmmm. So when did this become the school’s job?

Since Parents are Busy with Their Own Careers and Lives.

A majority of families are now double income homes, just to survive. There’s little time to teach values. Ms. McVitte said “since parents and TV shows set poor examples, teachers are needed to show pupils how to consider others, control their anger and resolve conflicts peacefully. They are being forced to fill the void.”

Since the Majority of Teens’ Guidance Comes From Peers.
Unlike past generations, adolescents spend the vast majority of their time interacting with peers not adults. Peer influence takes precedence. They spend the equivalent of a full-time job in front of a screen, watching video or interacting on social media. Their role model isn’t Socrates…it’s Josh down the street on Facebook.

Since the Media Has Made Celebrities a Role Model.
According to data presented at the ASCL conference, television shows like the X-Factor which promotes a “quick fix” solution to becoming successful over sustained hard work now set the expectation. Celebrities are followed like never before, who offer no help in revealing what the real world looks like.

Since Culture Values Pragmatism More Than Principles.
Because we live in a pluralistic culture, it is often difficult to decide what values should be taught. A moral vacuum emerges, as we choose tolerance of any behavior, fearing we cannot impose a value on a kid. So we become pragmatic: whatever gets you to your goal. We celebrate people who find loopholes in the system and get rich quick, rather than those who work hard in an honest job — but have no glitz.

So… What Do We Do?
“Schools have become surrogate families to pupils due to bad parenting and the damaging influence of celebrity culture,” said Sir Michael Wilshaw, a chief inspector of schools in Great Britain. “Teachers are being forced to step into the vacuum and set good examples where few exist at home.”

While I believe families should be the models for virtues and values, it just isn’t happening in many places. So, schools must do what they can.

1. Prioritize relationships with your students.
You’re much more apt to have a voice of influence in a student’s life if you actually become interested in them and make a connection. We must build bridges of relationship that can bear the weight of truth.

2. As a school, choose what values are timeless.
This is challenging, but if you give it some thought, I believe you’ll conclude there are some timeless and universal morals to be passed on, such as honesty, valuing people, discipline and work ethic, empathy, service to others, seeing the big picture, responsibility, etc. Our most popular resource, Habitudes–Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes, actually furnishes these truths.

3. Practice ’em before you preach ’em.
Creating a set of values to build character in your student body is hollow if you don’t choose to live them out yourselves. In fact, it doesn’t matter what posters you hang and what pithy definitions you offer for character if you don’t model the way. People do what people see…not what they hear.

4. Get beyond a “word of the month” club.
Hundreds of programs exist to build character and values in kids, but they tend to be little more than a poster and a word to memorize each month. I’ve looked at the research- – these programs don’t move the needle in adolescents. At Growing Leaders, we’ve developed a guide that combines images, conversations, exercises, movie clips, assessments and activities that make learning experiential.

5. Do what you can — and don’t sweat the rest.
While I believe schools must step in and teach these life skills, remember you are still an educator, not their parent. Don’t demand more of yourself than you should. Be a role model, share timeless principles with them, help them apply those principles…but don’t sweat the “uncontrollables.”

One of the crying needs of our day is to equip our youth to lead the way into the future.  Certainly we must teach them to be followers first—but there is a great need for leadership development as they graduate and enter their careers.

So what is at the root of true leader development?

It is the shift of responsibility. From one generation to the next. Taking place over time.

young leader

I believe training doesn’t really take affect until there is a transfer of responsibility. We can teach all day, show videos, play instructive games and do assessments, but until we actually give them responsibility—we have not really built a leader.

If you know me, you recognize I’m a fan of teaching, videos, experiential learning and assessments. Those are all tools we can employ to prepare young leaders. But, alas, they are controlled elements. They simulate leader training, but cannot finish the job, anymore than reading books about weightlifting, observing a fitness center or watching videos of strong guys can ultimately build our own muscles. We have to go lift the weights ourselves.

When we do pass on responsibility, suddenly, all the lectures, experiences and testing are relevant.

One university we work with allowed students to take full responsibility for the leadership training that went on last year. Two students stepped up and led the way, raised the money, came up with the issues to be discussed at the conference, and planned the mentoring process that would follow the fall event. When I asked the dean if they’d made any poor decisions, he said, “Of course they did. They’re young and inexperienced.”  Then—he went on to say, “But we have never had so much “buy in” to leadership development than when these students took charge. They are solving problems, raising money, recruiting peers to volunteer and inciting passion. We are seeing larger numbers of leaders and deeper engagement than ever before.”

It wasn’t the most polished leadership training they’ve ever experienced, but it was the most effective. Why? Because of who owned it.

The key to it all was the transfer of responsibility.

So—how are you doing at actually giving responsibility to your students? Are you intentional about doing it, over time, as you prepare them to lead?


A few months ago, I blogged about research that revealed how Facebook caused depression in users. Those who logged on often felt good about themselves as they entered the site, but became jealous of all the great vacation pics, hookups and new jobs friends were experiencing. It’s enough to make you want to log off.


The University of Michigan just released a report on their own study. They showed that Facebook, while it has many positive qualities, can reduce young adults’ sense of well-being (self-esteem) and satisfaction with life. The more they browsed, the worse they felt. More time on-line just makes it worse.

In case you didn’t know, Facebook has over a billion users and half of them log on daily. (If it were a country, FB would be the third largest country in the world). On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for the basic human need of social connection. Sadly, it may undermine it as well. Researchers say it absolutely sparks FOMO: “Fear Of Missing Out.”

FOMO is one of the most significant emotions kids feel today. Consider their world. They’re growing up in a time when they can see or know everything about what’s happening to anyone else they choose, in real time. What’s more, FB members usually post the best photos from their vacation, their date, or their game. Of course they may feel jealous, inferior, anxious, depressed and fearful of missing out.

Five Suggestions for Students:

  1. Don’t get on FB when you’re lonely. It’s like going grocery shopping when you’re hungry. It’s just not smart. On-line connections distort things.
  2. Seek direct, personal connections. The research showed that people did not feel worse about themselves (no effect) when they directly met people.
  3. Never allow on-line connections to replace real ones with people. I believe Facebook has its place, but is no substitute for face-to-face friendships.
  4. Use solitude for other things. Often people can enjoy isolation or solitude for reading, exercising, journaling, planning, etc.) Capitalize on what you can.
  5. Remember it’s all about perception. A number of recent studies indicate that people’s perceptions of social isolation (i.e. how lonely they feel) are a more powerful determinant of well-being than objective social isolation.”

One psychologist said, “As a society as a whole we haven’t really learned the rules that make us work well with Facebook,” adding some people became unable to control their experience with it.

Let me know your thoughts. How would you respond to this research?


This week, I’ve been blogging about “outliers” in Generation iY. These are teens or twenty-somethings who are exceptions to the rule: they aren’t slackers, they are not narcissistic, and they have a good work ethic. You and I both know—you can find these kids everywhere, but they are different than their peers.

generation iY

Today, I want to introduce you to a book written by historian and educator Ken Bain. This book, What the Best College Students Do, draws a road map for students who want to stand out, not just blend in.

Bain believes there are three types of learners:

  1. Surface Learners: who do as little as possible to get by
  2. Strategic Learners: who aim for top grades rather than true understanding
  3. Deep Learners: who leave college with a real, rich education

Bain then introduces us to a host of real-life deep learners: young and old, scientific and artistic, famous or still getting there. Although they each have their own insights, Bain identifies common patterns in their stories. Below are a few of them:

Pursue passion, not A’s. When he was in college, says astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, he was “moved by curiosity, interest and fascination, not by making the highest scores on a test.” As an adult, he points out, “no one ever asks you what your grades were. Grades become irrelevant.” In his experience as a student and a professor, says Tyson, “ambition and innovation trump grades every time.”

Get comfortable with failure. When he was still a college student, comedian Stephen Colbert began working with an improvisational theater in Chicago. “That really opened me up in ways I hadn’t expected,” he tells Bain. “You must be O.K. with bombing. You have to love it.” Colbert adds, “Improvisation is a great educator when it comes to failing. There’s no way you are going to get it right every time.”

Make a personal connection to your studies. In her sophomore year in college, Eliza Noh, now a professor of Asian-American studies at California State University at Fullerton, took a class on power in society: who has it, how it’s used. “It really opened my eyes. For the first time in my life, I realized that learning could be about me and my interests, about who I was,” Noh tells Bain. “I didn’t just listen to lectures, but began to use my own experiences as a jumping-off point for asking questions and wanting to pursue certain concepts.”

Read and think actively. Dean Baker, one of the few economists to predict the economic collapse of 2008, became fascinated in college by the way economic forces shape people’s lives. His studies led him to reflect on “what he believed and why, integrating and questioning,” Baker says: ”I was always looking for arguments in something I read, and pinpointed the evidence to see how it was used.”

Ask big questions. Jeff Hawkins, an engineer who created the first mobile computing device, organized his college studies around four profound questions he wanted to explore: Why does anything exist? Given that a universe does exist, why do we have the particular laws of physics that we do? Why do we have life, and what is its nature? And given that life exists, what’s the nature of intelligence? For many of the subjects he pursued, “there was no place to ‘look it up,’ no simple answer.”

Here’s to equipping your students to be exceptions to the rule.

You probably remember being a young teenager—and likely are glad that period of your life is over. This week, I am blogging about Generation iY students who are exceptions to the rule—those who are not slackers, poor communicators, entitled, or self-absorbed. Today, I’d like to share a story that will restore your faith in teens making those years productive.

generation iY app

A 17-year-old boy created an app called “Summly” which neatly summarizes news stories for quick reading on mobile devices. The creator of Summly is a tech geek named Nick D’Aloiso. He began working on the app when he was only 15 years old. (Isn’t that our freshman year of high school?) This app delivers snapshots of stories, giving users a simple, elegant and fast way to find the news they want. For publishers, Summly technology offers a new approach to drive interest in stories and reach a generation of mobile users that want information on the go.

The incredible part of the story is that he sold the app for $30 million to Yahoo! The company was aware they had no real presence on mobile devices—and found one from a teenager in England. Wow.

May I tell you what I love about Nick’s story?

1. He began to care about things beyond his own life.

Teens today are generally not interested in the news. They’re on YouTube, Facebook and Instragram—but generally not on CNN or Fox News. Nick realized at 15 years old that an app to help people process the news quickly would catch on.

2. He sought to add value.

Contrary to so many adolescents who are narcissistic, Nick created something that actually had value; an invention that others can benefit from. His device broadcasts important news about world events to his generation.

3. He understood the culture.

His app met a need that wasn’t being met in the same way. He looked around at his generation and observed they were on “the go” and didn’t have time to stop and watch the news. They will, however, check out an app.

4. He communicated with others.

He wasn’t satisfied with merely creating something—then taking a “selfie” on his phone and posting it on Facebook. He let companies know about what he’d done to see if anyone was interested. Yahoo! desperately needed what Nick offered.

5. He dug his well before he was thirsty.

All of this took place while he still lived at home with his parents. He didn’t wait until he was established before he became ambitious about serving the world around him. He started early—and now this teen is a millionaire.

What else do you like about Nick’s story?  Leave me a comment with your thoughts.