Generational differences and mentoring

Veteran/Traditionalist (born from 1922 to 1943). Boomer (born from 1944 to 1960). Gen Xer (born from 1961 to 1980). Millennial (born from 1981 to 2000).

This session asked us to discuss what political and social factors helped influence attitudes of each generation and then consider how differences between generational groups can affect interactions between mentors and mentees.

Jennifer Abrams, Beginning Teacher Coach for the Palo Alto Unified School District, guided the discussion, saying that generational differences can explain much about workplace interactions but those generational differences may not be as dominate for some people as their ethnic or racial identify.

We in scholastic journalism see some of those generational differences with new advisers.

Traditionalists and Boomers spend after-school time working with students on publications and Saturdays at state journalism conferences. They bristle when Gen Xers and Millennials say they won’t devote that time, as they have other priorities.

As discussed in the session, one’s generation is not always an accurate predictor of attitudes and behaviors. But those generational differences do help us understand that when we are mentoring a teacher in a difference generation group, we may have some differences in approach.

Your Gen X mentee may rather have a dialogue through e-mail than a phone call. You may need to offer direct (not subtle) coaching about what your mentee should be wearing to the meeting with the school board. A Millennial may expect to receive a high level of praise.

A theme in this session (and echoed by other sessions and speakers) is that today’s young teachers may not make teaching a life-long career. Gen Xers and Millennials may be at a school for a few years and then move to another school or even an entirely different job. Traditionalists and Boomers have tended to see teaching as a career and be advisers at the same school for several decades.

So we should do our best in mentoring them, realizing that they will take those skills and attitudes we help them cultivate wherever they go.

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