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Administrator Magazine: Leadership
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What Do Gen Y Teachers Want?

The profession is changing, and districts had better change too.

Perhaps you’ve seen a Generation Y teacher: young, energetic, tech-savvy, and butting heads with the system before the bell rings. These teachers (born after 1978, give or take a few years) come into the classroom with a distinct set of expectations. It can be a challenge for analog-era administrators to understand this new breed and keep them in education for the long run.

future shock

Gen Y teachers can seem confusing. “They come into the profession very confident,” says Sabrina Laine, director of the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality, “but they also want to be continually provided with feedback.” They want to have an immediate effect on their students. But more than anything, they expect to be part of a movement for change, says Kathleen Fulton, director of Reinventing Schools for the 21st Century, and they are sometimes frustrated when they find that they’re in a classroom, alone.

Smart districts are on it. Flowing Wells district in Tucson, Arizona, takes new teachers through a comprehensive induction that includes mentoring, staff development, and support meetings. “New teachers want a high level of support,” says district assistant superintendent Linda Jehle. “They don’t want to be in an isolated situation.”

For the most part, however, districts have been slow to recognize that Gen Y is changing the way teaching gets done. “Gen Y is having an effect on education and no one is doing anything to respond,” says Laine. Today’s young people don’t expect their first job to become a lifelong career, but even on the brink of a teacher shortage, few human resource departments have a plan for retaining new teachers.

A brave new world?
If the ed establishment can learn to embrace Gen Y, schools will look drastically different. Technology will be integrated at all levels; teachers will have a say in everything they do; and the district hierarchy will disappear. Teachers will work hard for feedback and pay increases, and the proof will be in student performance. Failing the challenge could mean losing the next generation of teachers, and students, too.

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