Gaining a better understanding of the way your students have been raised and the world they live in is critical to connecting with them and educating effectively. With a grasp on their background and perspective, you can improve their engagement and academic success—not to mention generating accolades for your school.
Today’s students are part of Generation Z, which encompasses most school-aged children. They were born between about 1997 and 2014.
Gen Z students are a mobile and videocentric generation. They want to tackle problems; they are motivated to help others—in fact, they want to advocate for other people. Their community, though mostly digital, is the only social circle they’ve ever known—that’s why taking away their devices can be so earth-shattering to them. Gen Z children have grown up in a celebrity- and media-focused society. They are socially and politically aware—perhaps more than other generations. The Pew Research Center defined Gen Z as racially and ethnically diverse, progressive, and pro-government.
They’re on track to be the most well-educated generation ever. Independent school teachers and leaders who can engage them probably stand the best chance to enthuse them about learning.
Who Influenced Generation Z?
Want to know more about Gen Z? Consider who raised them. Most have Generation X parents, who were largely “latchkey” and want their children to be independent. Gen X parents are more interested in being copilots than “helicopter parents.”
On the older spectrum, some Gen Z children were born to Baby Boomers, and the younger Gen Z children are being raised by millennials. Despite the generational differences, many Gen Z children are close to their parents.
What Impacts Generation Z?
Another key to understanding Gen Z is to look at the world they are experiencing. Since they were born, these children have been immersed in a society of nonstop devastating world events, including wars, recessions, terror attacks, COVID-19, and mass shootings.
Additionally, they have witnessed many “firsts,” such as seeing gay marriage become legal and the first Black President of the United States. They’ve never known a world without technology.
All of this affects their mental health, identity, and engagement—central determinants of educational success. This is likely to affect their mental health, identity, and engagement in school.
Even before the pandemic, Gen Z was a cohort with increased mental health issues. According to 2019 research, 70% of all teens across genders have seen their peers experience anxiety and depression—that’s a higher rate than previous generations. On the flip side, these students may be more willing than other generations to seek help.
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A Hopeful Generation
This post has largely described the things affecting Gen Z negatively, but there are many positive attributes about these students.
Gen Z children:
- have a desire to respond to issues and solve problems;
- thrive independently;
- enjoy being given choice;
- like hands-on, customized experiences;
- value diversity and encourage people to be different;
- are creative and highly entrepreneurial; and
- insist on curating their own identities.
Knowing all of this gives you a good perspective on who they are, which means you can tailor your approach on how to best reach them. In an upcoming post, we’ll talk about how to engage these children with personalized learning approaches that can enhance their growth—and their potential.
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