6 Ways Principals Can Bring out the Best in Millennial Teachers

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6 Ways Principals Can Bring Out the Best in Millennial Teachers

In a school environment, millennials have the potential to be brilliant problem solvers who bring creativity and boundless energy to the classroom. This generation, born roughly between 1981 and 2000, are eager learners who thrive on feedback and strong relationships. According to Pew Research, millennials are currently the largest generation in the labor force. If you’re not already working with millennials, chances are you’re about to hire them. Here is what you need to do to bring the best out of a generation raised on girl power, grunge rock, and Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences:

1. Give millennials individual attention

The beginning of the millennial generation almost perfectly coincides with the publication of Howard Gardner’s 1983 book Frames of Mind. In this book, Gardner set forth a theory of learning that identified nine types of intelligence: interpersonal, linguistic, spatial, naturalist, body-kinetic, existential, mathematical-logical, and musical. It is the millennial generation that benefitted from new pedagogy that guided them to understand their learning style as highly individualized. Millennials know their strengths because their teachers helped them see their potential.

How to make this work at your school:

• Millennials are deep believers in the power of personal impact. When supervising them, play the role of historian as you frame their accomplishments and potential for growth.

• Help millennial colleagues see what they bring to the larger community. Integrate them as soon as possible into committees and PLCs to boost a sense of community.


2. Maximize millennial confidence


Regardless of the length of their tenure at your school, millennials distinguish themselves by their confidence in the workplace. They do not shy away from sharing their ideas and opinions, even in front of colleagues with much more classroom experience. They seek to understand the reasoning and logic behind decision making. Keep the lines of communication open and be transparent whenever possible.

How to make this work at your school:

• Make sure that people who supervise millennials tailor evaluations to the millennial’s socio-emotional profile.

• Most millennial colleagues are ready to hit the ground running. Pair people who would energize each other’s teaching practice for best results.


3. Allow millennials to blend the personal and professional

Millennials have never known a workplace without email. As such, they are never off-line. They send and respond to emails on evenings and weekends. They use social media to improve relations with colleagues and supervisors.

How to make this work at your school:

• Next time you have to plan a social event, ask a millennial for help! Chances are they have a good idea about what activities would bring energy and enthusiasm to the faculty.

• Millennials are social media experts. Harness their talents and let them help you up your school’s social media game.


4. Develop collaborative experiences

Group work, collaborative projects, and creative partnerships are second nature to millennials. They are natural interdisciplinary thinkers. They know there are deep connections between the skills and content learned. As such, they bring creative twists to their teaching practice that will propel curriculum forward. Encourage them by giving them time and space to collaborate with others.

How to make this work at your school:

• Got a problem with your attendance process? Want to rethink your schedule? Convene a group of millennial colleagues to use design thinking to come up with a solution. Think of ways to apply their collaborative horsepower outside the classroom. Prepare to be inspired!

• Nurture cross-disciplinary collaborations and provide time and space for this work to happen.


5. Create meaningful work to reinforce commitment

In a 2016 Deloitte and Touche study, only 27 percent of the nearly 8,000 millennials surveyed expected to stay at their current job. Millennials thrive when their work feels meaningful and when there is also a clear vision for their improvement. Help them see a long-term path for their professional growth at your school. You can do this by providing meaningful, constructive feedback on a regular basis. For a millennial, good feedback is short, direct, and frequent.

How to make this work at your school:

• Call on your millennial colleagues to use their skills outside of the classroom. They are effective problem-solvers who also eagerly take on challenges if it means they can impact their environment in a positive way.

• Supervisors should bring a partner-based approach to their work with millennials. Instead of making sure boxes are checked off and milestones are being met, supervisors should be prepared to brainstorm side-by-side with colleagues.


6. Let millennials lead the diversity discussion

The millennials on your faculty are not new to conversations about identity and privilege. In fact, they are the generation that has advanced a significant cultural shift around gender identity. They prefer complexity over broad strokes when it comes to this kind of professional development. Make sure that there are opportunities for those ready to tackle these topics in a deeper way.

How to make this work in your school:

• Create opportunities for colleagues to self-select into conversations they are interested in. For example, if you offer professional development around privilege, consider pairing it with a session about gender fluidity and pronoun usage. 

• If you are interested in supporting deeper conversations around topics of equity and inclusion on campus, ask a millennial to take a leadership role.

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