Have you noticed a change in your classroom parents over the last few years? How about the parenting of your students? Children born in the 80's and 90's have been classified as Generation Me. Don't confuse the Me Generation with their siblings and children Generation Me. The Me Generation doesn't hold a candle to their children. The Generation Me adults are characterized as having a high drive for education, being more involved in charity work than previous generations, rejecting tradition, taking more time for themselves than previous generations, having a very healthy self-esteem, being unfiltered, shunning hard work and taking individualism to the extreme. There are a lot of social changes that occurred in the United States since the 1970's that contributed to Generation Me. This post won't focus on the how they came about, but rather the effects of Generation Me's parenting on today's educators. If you are interested in the how, search Amazon for books that focus on this topic. It's important to note that sociologists are quick to point out that there are a lot of factors that change or influence how a generation responds to different circumstances as a whole. People of different socioeconomic status and different cultures will respond differently to social changes.
Educators through time will tell you that every generation gets worse and worse. We have gripes just like the educators that came before us. Take for instance my generation, the Me Generation. We as a whole do not like people who are different than us and carry a lot of prejudices. We like everyone to follow the status quo. That doesn't mean everyone in the generation subscribes to these stereotypes, it's just how we are described by others. I feel like I have to be exceptional at making social changes in accepting others to offset my generation. Sometimes the changes within and through generations are more drastic than others. Over the past 10 years the dynamics between parents and teachers have changed quite a bit. Let's review some of the changes, shall we? In the past parents would listen to teachers and implement study habits at home. They would spend time teaching children with hands-on educational toys and read to them. The kids were the center of the parent's universe. Slowly a shift began occurring with parent/child relationships. Parents started using technology like tablets to teach their children some time ago. It was great because the apps changed as the children's needs changed.The kids loved it because it was engaging. Parents noticed that they could get dinner together without struggling with children because the kids were on the tablets. As the years went on, the use of technology has morphed into a form of babysitting rather than educational use. At school educators are noticing that children have a shorter and shorter attention span every year and that ADD and ADHD are increasing quicker than we can keep up with. Getting some students to sit through a book is next to impossible, forget asking the child to think about it and respond to their learning in writing. This attention span has caused more behavior disruptions in the classroom than ever.
Naturally behavior disruptions are handled through the teachers communicating with the parent. The responses that educators are getting back are shocking to them. You have to remember that Generation Me prides themselves on unfiltered communication. Here are some real communications between educators and parents with names changed for privacy.
Dear Parent, Bobby is having a difficult time focusing during class. His reading has fallen slightly behind. I am working in small groups with him to catch him up. Here are some things that you could do at home...
Dear Teacher, You teach Bobby for 6.5 hours a day. That's plenty of time to teach him how to read. I do not have time to work on reading at home, that's your job.
Dear Parent, Susie said some bad words to a friend today. When the friend said they were going to tell the teacher, Susie threatened to hurt her. I have discussed this with Susie and she has been given consequences. Please discuss these with Susie and help her to understand the seriousness of her actions.
Dear Teacher, So Susie was rude to someone. Big Deal. What consequence did the other child get? They were rude too.
An older child is sent to the office for hitting other children. The principal calls the parent to discuss the situation. The parent is unhappy and sends a note to the teacher.
Dear Teacher, I assume you send every child who misbehaves in class to the principal. I need to have a conference with you immediately. I cannot meet until after 6:30 so you will stay until I get there.
A teacher gives out skittles as a reward for hard work. She notices that one child has worked exceptionally hard. When she gives the child skittles, the child explains that she can't eat them. The teacher gives her another treat that was in her purse and explains that the teacher can't normally do that, but she was so proud of her work she wanted her to have it.
The parent writes in the next day... I understand you won't normally give out a different treat for rewards. This is unacceptable. I have spent too much money on dental work for my child to eat the wrong treat. You will give them a different treat when needed.
These scenarios aren't uncommon and none of them have been changed for sensationalism. These scenarios are familiar to educators all over and some parents don't see a problem with the unfiltered communication via letter or email. We haven't found them to be as bad in face to face communication yet. This problem is mostly seen in younger grades like kindergarten through second grade. As the years progress, Generation Me will start to have more children and the classroom will eventually be comprised mostly of their children.
So what effect are these interactions having on educators? Frustration, disbelief, mental and physical exhaustion and the loss of love for educating to name just a few. We haven't even begun to see a majority of these children in our classrooms. You have to remember that this is just a small part of teaching. It shouldn't take up all of a teacher's time. Even the hardest working teachers who believe the world can be changed find themselves at a loss for ideas to fix the problem. If the parents and students don't care, then what would make the educator want to care? The interesting factor in this social dynamic is Generation Me is also teaching. Now don't forget that Generation Me likes to be individual and seeks attention so they can start out as rock star teachers who make a name for themselves. This is really beneficial to education. The rub comes when they have to communicate with the parents who just don't care. Even Generation Me starts to get tired of Generation Me.
There are a lot of good qualities within all the generations that are alive today. We each have something to offer this world. The problem we face is communicating with one another in a way that benefits the world rather than ourselves. So what can you do to make a difference? First, decide if you are Generation Me. If you are, take a realistic look at the positive and negative effects of your generation. If you are a compassionate hard working individual, how can you help others in your generation to see what you see? Could you set better examples on social media and through your life? If you are not in Generation Me, try to understand Generation Me. What can you do to communicate with them in a way that works for everyone?
For our extreme Generation Me people who fit the stereotype exactly. If you are a selfie loving individual who commonly thinks that they should get what they want because they deserve it, STOP it!!!! That behavior will not do anyone including yourself any good. Consider not having children if you are in the least bit wrapped up in yourself. If everyone puts themselves first the world will not function, that's common sense. Your behavior will drive educators out of the classroom sooner than later and you won't like what replaces them. Go out into the world today and do something selfless just because you can. Leave the world better than when you found it.