Opinion
Teaching Profession Opinion

‘Gen Y’ Teachers Want to Innovate; Education Leaders Lag Behind

By Sabrina Laine — December 21, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Generation Y teachers, those 20-somethings who connect with their friends via online social-networking sites and live with the world at their fingertips, are inherently going to be incompatible with a stagnant education system that can be painfully isolating and uninspiring. Will the system bend to their will or break their spirit? What does the answer mean for the future of public education in this country?

Whether schools nurture or negate the ideas of Gen Y teachers will be the 21st-century litmus test for their ability to lead in a knowledge-driven, global economy that is growing increasingly, and exponentially, competitive as our students fall dangerously behind. Just as the workplace is learning how to integrate Gen Y professionals on the brink of the biggest labor shortage in history, schools need a lesson in leveraging the next generation of teachers to take learning to the next level.

Generation Y teachers want to create, not conform. They want to color off the page, but are told to teach to the test. They want to work in small groups, but are given unmanageable numbers of students. They want to commune with colleagues online and across the school, but they are confined to their classrooms and limited to one-on-one teacher mentoring. They are sometimes pressured by peers to maintain the status quo, but they want the power to make a difference. They want financial stability and respect, but the importance of their role is monetarily marginalized. They want to co-teach, job-share, receive bonuses, and try their hand at leadership roles, but unions and politics can be unmovable barriers to work/life balance and optimum job satisfaction. But most important of all, Gen Y teachers want support from their leaders to innovate and inspire their students.

The time is now to start reversing the negative effects that conformity has had on the public school system and begin harnessing the boundless energy of new teachers.

According to a survey of new teachers commissioned earlier in 2007 by the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality and funded by the U.S. Department of Education, most of these teachers say that their creativity is suffocated and that they are surprised more teachers do not burn out. While 22 percent of first-year teachers overall say they plan to leave teaching within the next five years, a full 25 percent of those who rated their administrators’ instructional leadership and guidance as “poor” said they plan to leave within two years. Fifty-four percent of respondents said that the lack of support from administrators is a drawback to the profession.

One-fourth of the first-year teachers do not feel that their administrators support them in handling student-discipline problems, and even more say that their leaders do not provide adequate resources, such as textbooks or well-equipped classrooms. Still, new teachers don’t put the responsibility solely on the shoulders of administrators; 84 percent believe that making it easier to terminate unmotivated or incompetent teachers would improve teacher quality overall, and over half of new teachers believe that tying their salary increases to the assessments of principals and colleagues also would be an effective way to improve matters. More than 90 percent of the survey respondents cited more professional-learning opportunities, particularly better preparation to meet the needs of a diverse classroom, as effective ways to increase the quality of education.

Yet, no matter how disenchanting education becomes, most new teachers are not giving up on their dreams of making a difference, and intend to stay in education. A majority of traditionally certified teachers say that they wouldn’t want to do anything else, and that they expect to spend more than a decade in the classroom. On the flip side, 56 percent of alternatively trained teachers expect to leave the classroom within five years, but 45 percent anticipate staying in education.

The education system has reached a global-warming level of crisis. The time is now to start reversing the negative effects that conformity has had on the public school system and begin harnessing the boundless energy of new teachers. Too often, teachers are treated like commodities, but they are the architects of America’s intellectual capital and should be supported as such. Listening to what new teachers say they need and affording them freedom, resources, and true support will boost innovation and increase the quality of education.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Webinar
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Efforts to Toughen Teacher Evaluations Show No Positive Impact on Students
After a decade of expensive evaluation reforms, new research shows no positive effect on student test scores or educational attainment.
10 min read
Man and woman evaluating and rating profiles by giving them stars.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Profession Teachers Who Refuse to Comply With Vaccine Mandates Won't Face Consequences in Many Places
Some districts and states aren't even keeping track of how many teachers are vaccinated.
8 min read
Teachers protest against COVID-19 vaccination mandates in New York on Aug. 25, 2021. On Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied an emergency appeal from a group of teachers to block New York City's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for public school teachers and other staff from going into effect.
Teachers protest against COVID-19 vaccination mandates in New York on Aug. 25.
Mary Altaffer/AP
Teaching Profession What New Teachers Need
Ideas from the real world on making teachers' first years less overwhelming and more fulfilling.
5 min read
Illustration of a classroom diorama sitting on a student desk.
Illustration by Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty)
Teaching Profession Opinion This Year Almost Drove Me Out of Teaching. The Right Leader Made Me Stay
After seven years teaching and one class away from becoming an education specialist, I have seen the highs and lows of education leadership.
Samantha Richardson
4 min read
Illustration of woman sitting on a mountain top looking into the distant landscape.
iStock/Getty