Changing the Way We Communicate with Generation Z

Did you know that public educators are quitting their jobs at a faster rate than some schools can replace them? As of last year, “public education employees are leaving their jobs faster than ever recorded,” reports government data reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

“Teachers, janitors and other education professionals departed their jobs at an ‘average rate of 83 per 10,000 a month’ in the first 10 months of 2018. It’s the fastest resignation rate since the Department of Labor began measuring these statistics in 2001.”

Why is this happening? 

Reasons for Teachers Jumping Ship

There are various reasons for educators leaving their positions—including low wages, small budgets, classroom conditions, expectations, and, of course, the students themselves. I’d like to focus on students here because it’s what I think we can change most efficiently.

Three high school faculty members recently told me they had resigned after becoming teachers as a second career. Each of them had begun their careers in corporate America and thought they’d give back before retiring. At least for them, the teaching gig didn’t last long. They shared some reasons for their decisions:

  • Students don’t respect teachers these days.
  • Students don’t pay attention long; it’s too much work.
  • Students get distracted by their phones and by social media.
  • Students seem disinterested in learning the subject.

I wonder if at least part of the answer to this new trend is changing the way we communicate.

The Needs of Generation Z Are Different

Remember the reality of Generation Z. Today’s students are:

  • Exposed to lots of information at very young ages through a portable device (ages 3-4)
  • Grow up in an on-demand world, enabling them to consume content at any time
  • Receive as many as 10,000 messages a day (notifications, feeds, pop-ups)

By adolescence (middle school, high school, and college), we must change the way we teach. We must begin to move from mere pedagogy to andragogy—adult learning methods:

  1. Pedagogy: to lead and instruct children
  2. Andragogy: to lead and instruct adults

Andragogy refers to methods and principles used in adult education. This teaching method has received more airtime with so many non-traditional students returning to school to increase their education via college courses. Adults are incentivized differently than kids are, bringing so much knowledge into the classroom. But since so many teens have been exposed to adult information, does it not make sense that we may need to incentivize them differently than past generations of kids?

While the term was coined by German educator Alexander Kapp in 1833, American educator Malcolm Knowles created a theory regarding adult education between 1945 and 1965. Based on Knowles’s assumptions, I offer an andragogic game plan for you as you teach and connect with today’s students.

How to PROVE Generation Z Can Learn

Below is an acronym to help you connect, communicate, and teach students today. It spells the word PROVE and enables you to help Generation Z prove they can learn. These ingredients empower you to walk them through steps of learning:

Your Game Plan: Letting Students PROVE Themselves

Below are ingredients that set the stage for students to own their learning. I use this as a sort of lesson plan. They must PROVE themselves:

P – Problem

Students engage when their work stems from real-world problems and what they learn actually solves those problems. Begin with a problem, not a curriculum. This gives them a why.

R – Relationships

Students engage when connecting and sparring with others in the learning process. They learn better from those they believe actually like them. Community is key. This gives them a whom.

O – Ownership

Students engage when they can determine the course they take to reach their goals. This enables them to practice metacognition. It belongs to them. This offers control and gives them a how.

V – Visuals

Students engage when their imagination is sparked by images and stories. The visuals actually enable them to retain what they learn. Learning becomes memorable. This gives them a what.

E – Experience

Students engage when learning involves experiences and project-based learning. The experiences actually teach them to observe, calculate, and conclude. This gives them a where.

Talk It Over: How can you better practice these ingredients?

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Changing the Way We Communicate with Generation Z