Archive | February, 2017

Teaching and Reaching Generation Z

20 Feb

Group of young people

Youth is Served

Generation Z is in a great spot.  Emerging generations always seems to have so much going for them and, in this respect, the current generation of young people is no different.  As parents, have you ever wondered what it would be like to be young, again: really, really, young again—and be thrust directly in the midst of those raging hormones and unpredictable emotions?  I am learning to stay away from mirrors these days.  However, I do wonder whether George Bernard Shaw is correct when he writes, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  This is an interesting concept to consider.

One of the things that Generation Z has going for it is the intrinsic motivation to play.  And play they do, which brings consequences on many levels.  Some of these consequences are addressed in the pages of my upcoming book on parenting:  Helping Parents Understand the Minds and Hearts of Generation Z.  I will be referring both to this book, and its companion volume, throughout this blog piece.

Likewise, parents and teachers have many similarities, and some of these are addressed in both this book and my companion work The Entitled Generation:  Helping Teachers Teach and Reach the Hearts and Minds of Generation Z.  For parents, the growth of their children is front and center, brimming with drama and often accompanied by challenges of sibling rivalry.  As teachers, although we can never really go back in time, teaching the same age group and grade levels every year somehow perceptively circumvents the reality that we are getting older.  Parents understand aging, but teachers live with a perception that the time clock is somehow in neutral and that, year-in-and-year-out, relevance and vibrancy still exist. z

Sorry to be the bearer of such bad news, but today’s young people seem to have it made.  Youth is served.  But “didn’t every generation of young people have it made?”  Indeed, there is a point to be made for each emerging generation apparently being better off than previous generations.  Before the reader draws the wrong conclusions, a bit of a sarcastic foray is in order—the likes of which both parents and teachers will identify.

The average person in Gen Z will spend hundreds-to-thousands of hours online by the time they are eighteen years of age, just playing and playing some more.  Gen Z works daily on typing skills, literary interpretations, and drawing rapid conclusions, expressed in a video or a deep 140 characters.  An essential to Gen Z is to remain in touch with friends throughout their days, often interrupting other classes, so as not to miss the latest “LOL.”  At school, teachers just have to understand that students are immediately compelled to send photos, messages or answers to quizzes or tests.  Friends are in need, after all!

Text messaging has done away with the need for writing and passing notes to fellow students.  Stealth recordings are made wherever the Gen Z student chooses, whether at home or on school campuses, and hardly anyone one can stop these recordings from being immediately shared on the Internet.  Any student that needs to talk to one of their parents, or any parents that want to get a message to their Gen Z child, is just seconds away.  “If it is my mom, I have to take this call!”

mom-calls-son

While in class, all anyone needs is an excuse to go to the restroom and then a student can make all the phone calls desired with no one around.  Gen Z have to check in with their boss, or swim coach, to be certain not to leave a very important voicemail unheard.  While in the restroom, if there are other students present, one could also test out the phone’s camera and video to see if its pixels are adequate for immediately uploading to a Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook account.  Faces can always be changed with apps that allow dog faces or circus-mirror-like distortions.  Yes, Gen Z loves to play.

These supposed skills may be wonderful for social media and friends, but writing skills are plummeting to dire levels.  Gen Z parents might want to press their children into thinking about a career in research and rehabilitation of arthritis of the thumbs.

thumbs

Changes in Technology Bring New Choices

Long gone are the days of pagers, typewriters, gigapets, Tomagatchies, Furbies and other machines and toys.  Parents remember those.  How many veteran teachers remember the duplicating spirits of the mimeograph machine, or the horrendous chalk dust, and overhead projector blue hand syndrome?  Now, teachers just deal with whiteboard marker fumes all day.

Times have changed and they have changed for parents as well as for teachers.  They have not changed for students of Gen Z.  Like precious generations before them, all they know is what they know in the present.  Parents realize what teachers realize:  the main reason times have changed is because culture has changed.  One of the major cultural changes, of course, is in the explosion of educational and personal technologies and the impacts these have on the developing brains of Gen Z children.  Parents can read all about this in chapters three and four of my book titled, Helping Parents Understand the Minds and Hearts of Generation Z.

Parents today have extreme pressures placed upon them, with routines of work, school, extra-curricular activities, church—you name it!  When a child of a previous generation needed to be disciplined, the child was sent to his or her room.  There was little to occupy the boredom.  There are some differences with today’s children, however.  Getting “grounded” today may not equate to such a detriment.  In fact, Gen Z children sent to their rooms for discipline might realize an open invitation for an awesome time.  Parents today have to contend with smart phones, computers, instant messaging, cable-television, iPads, DVD players and video games.  The matter is exacerbated if Gen Z children have to split their time between two parents, in different homes.  One home’s discipline may be another home’s panacea.  If these equate to grounding, we all should shudder to see full flight!  Changes in technology bring new choices to parenting.

Another wonderful thing about being young is that parents and teachers are virtually clueless when students copy and paste documents together from the Internet, including sharing files and pirated music.  The “think, pair, share,” of classroom collaboration did little for the unmotivated students.  But just think!  If parents all became young again, we would be taught to work together in groups and turn in assignments derived from collaborative efforts, all sharing in the fruits of the reward.  Everyone gets an “A.”

Being young again would also mean being “normcore” stylish.  Or, we could just wear our hats and hoodies in classes, claiming our heads are cold, while budded and listening to our favorite tunes.  If we were young again and our parents allowed us to have smart phones and iPads, what is so wrong with using them whenever we would so desire?  We would just be entitled to them.

Shaw concluded that “Youth is wasted on the young.”  Couple that with another of his famous sayings, “I want to be all used up when I die,” and Gen Z might begin to realize its role in the lives of parents and teachers.  Make no mistake about it: parents are gigabytes in a terabyte world—while their Gen Z kids’ heads are in the Cloud.

How About Some Manners?

Assemble a large group of people together in one location and watch the displays of manners.  At times when my awareness is heightened, I ask myself, are things really as bad as they seem on social media?  Are people, young and old, really this rude—and must we tolerate these behaviors in our schools and at home?  The first question parents should ask any of their Gen Z children’s teachers is “How is my child’s behavior in class?”  The chances are that children willing to practice rudeness and lack of control at school, are probably not much better at home.  Respect is first and foremost about obedience to people and rules.  Gen Z has grown into respecting self over others, seen gloriously in the identity movements encouraged by culture, including the promotion of the same at some schools.

I am curious as to when things changed enough to tolerate the wearing of baseball-type caps inside buildings, such as restaurants, churches, and in school classrooms?  Also, would someone tell me why T-shirts and bare feet are allowed on golf courses? What is this Gen Z world coming to, these days?  Where are they learning all of these practices?

oversized-ball-cap

Some younger Gen Z children scream in stores and are allowed to roam freely, touching most everything in sight.  Are we teaching our young people to think of anyone but themselves?  Don’t look now, but we are all somewhat part of the culture affecting Gen Z.  Are families so stressed out that precious little time is spent actually drawing contrasts in culture for children?  Has anyone else noticed that a smaller amount of people actually hold doors open for others?  What about the phrases, “Excuse me,” “Thank you” and, “You are welcome?” Apparently, these phrases are becoming parliamentary dinosaurs, in favor of the phrase, “No problem.”  Also, few people return lost items to those whom they know, let alone to strangers.

How will Gen Z learn honesty if no one shows them how to be honest?  If they do return an item at all, most people feel entitled to lift anything of value, because of their “good deed” according to some self-oriented “finders-keepers, losers-weepers” notion.  Gen Z will, however post all of these good deeds online, drawing attention to themselves, so the world can see how splendid their actions appear.

Do parents really want their young people filling their minds with abusive talk about women, especially preached by today’s entertainment industry?  Are these neo-American cultural norms for Gen Z?  Take heart!  The independent spirit demonstrated by Gen Z children can be harnessed for good.  Chapter five of my book suggests partnering strategies and methods to assist parents in understanding the minds and hearts of today’s children.

The biblical Golden Rule:  “Do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” seems to have changed meanings today. The current meaning reads more like “Do unto others before they do unto you.”  This shift would make the late Anton Szandor LaVey smile, for this is the humanist tenet he boldly proclaimed in The Satanic Bible, in founding the Church of Satan in 1969, at Daly City, California.  Talk about cultural contrasts!

satanic-bible

Ralph Waldo Emerson noted: “Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” I think Emerson was onto something.  If parents, teachers, coaches and other adults do not model acceptable, positive manners, where can we expect the younger generation to learn them? Seriously, what is lost by wearing a belt, pulling up one’s sagging pants, or speaking without profanity?  Social media allows culture to impact Gen Z immediately and also allows them to share in the culture, almost as quickly.

Accepting the Challenge

Now where do we place the blame for what many see as a breach of manners in our culture today?  We would all like to pin it on one group or another, and maybe some of that might be justified. However, there is no discounting the reality that there just seems to be a spirit of rudeness that stretches across our culture.  The world saw this in the recent presidential election and our nation sees it in the form of protest on college campuses.  Technology is right in the middle lending to this incivility.  Participation in social media assists in chipping away some of the moral fabric that even the best of families practice.

So here’s the challenge.  Manners, like character and morality, are best discussed at times when openness and peace exist. There is a greater acceptance and understanding in times of peace.  These are what educators call “teachable moments” and they exist for us all.  Teachable moments must begin at early ages and be practiced consistently and from within the fabric of the family.  But difficulty exists there, too, when standards of behavior on weekends differ from weekday standards.  Holding Gen Z accountable may be difficult, but it is critical for the present and for the future of America.

Where can we look for help?  Is it the media?  Schools? The entertainment industry?  Given the changes in the political landscape in 2017, we are left to wonder about the future shifts of education in America.  Maybe, we should all retreat to the Internet for 12-hour sessions of online video gaming to occupy our time until it is all figured out.  After all, who needs an imagination, when one can use a programmer’s imagination for guidance?

In terms of the problems, certainly, we all can continue to blame the traditional whipping posts. There are no easy pinpoints on this one.  But we can begin to shape the world one person at a time.  Gen Z is worth the effort.  Answers do lie in the possibilities of all of our cultural agencies working together—including faith organizations.  But we must ask a serious question:  Is it likely that the cultural wealth of America’s past can once again become valuable over the present fractures in culture, resulting in selfishness, identity politics, and material wealth?  That remains to be seen.

In Gen Z, we have made America young again.  The advice in this book will be helpful toward understanding these wonderful youth.  Parents might even feel a bit younger, themselves, after reading this book.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Regardless, there are some solutions to the issues parents face today.  All things considered, while the nation discordantly adjusts to Making America Great Again, let us not forget Generation Z and the previous generations of Americans which made America great in their own rights.  Here’s to Generation Z and to the greatness that comes next!

This original blog has been inspired from my upcoming books on Generation Z.  These books can be found at https://rowman.com/Action/Search/_/zarra/?term=zarra, on Amazon, and ordered online and at any brick and mortar store.  Both are due to be released on June 1, 2o17

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