Something I have been thinking about a lot lately is the generational gap in schools. I’m not talking about the obvious gap between the students and teachers, but rather the gap between the teachers themselves. It’s no surprise to anyone in education that there is a difference between veteran teachers and those with only a few years of experience. There is no use in comparing and contrasting the teaching styles, because it’s a given that education has evolved over time and teachers by nature are opinionated people with specific ideas about how to implement curriculum. The real reason this generational gap has been on my mind is because I notice the problems this gap creates when leading a school.
There has been a lot in the news in recent years about teacher attrition: the fact that a high percentage of teachers leaves the classroom within the first five years. This could be due to many factors, but what I’m beginning to find is that young teachers feel a disconnect in a system that places great value on veteran teachers and not as much value on the innovative and creative younger teachers.
There are many different people who play an important role in shaping the students at their school every day. It’s the important task of the leadership to bridge the gap between these people to unify them in this mission. No matter how long any teacher has been working in a school, I think all teachers can agree on why they first entered the profession. There is a commonality among anyone who genuinely cares about kids and helping them achieve their fullest potential. However, it remains vital to unite all teachers in order for the school to achieve its fullest potential.
To do this, I think it’s important for school leaders to understand the differences between the generations of teachers in their school. Instead of working to placate each group, leaders should find ways to take advantage of what each group has to offer. As a young teacher, I realize that I do not have all of the answers. I understand that I have a lot of room to learn and grow as an educator and I know that my colleagues have great things to share with me. On the other hand, I grew up with technology and understand better what it takes to engage my students in the fast-paced 21st century. I view my work differently and I have different goals and expectations of my leaders. For this reason, it’s necessary for school leaders to not only show interest in bridging these differences, but also to show that they value the advantages each generation offers.
After all, what a shame it is to see any organization–but especially places of learning–waste human talent by simply not recognizing the potential that a diverse staff can offer. I read an article recently that I think would be beneficial for all leaders to read in order to better understand the needs of young teachers. Its message resonated with the feelings I’ve had recently that led me to this blog post. So, instead of letting young teachers become frustrated and leave teaching, it’s time for leaders to take action in order to challenge, motivate, and cultivate the talents of their young staff members before it’s too late. I believe that it’s the administrators who possess the ability to reverse the alarming attrition rates and inspire in their teachers what the teachers should inspire in their students. Only then can schools–and all their students–reach their fullest potential.