The ‘new’ Rules of Engagement

One advantage of being on a school camp traveling from Port Elliot (South Australia) to Yulara (Northern Territory) is that I spend many hours sitting on a bus. The advantage of this is that I now have time to catch up on all of the books that I can’t find time to read normally.

One of the books that I have wanted to read is Michael McQueen’s ‘The New Rules of Engagement’. Recently, our school counsellor went to a conference in Adelaide and came back ‘buzzing’ about a session she had attended by Michael McQueen, a Sydney based speaker, social researcher, author and founder of The Nexgen Group. She passed me the book saying “Kathy you have to read this book!” Once again she was correct!

McQueen aims to give readers an insight into understanding and connecting with Gen Y – the generation of kids born between the early 1980s and late 1990s. He hopes to arm readers with understandings, tools,strategies and ideas that will enable us to powerfully engage this generation.

“Put simply, engagement is about three things: commitment, attraction and connection”. Pp 8

Gen Y ‘have no idea what a broken record is or what you mean when you say they sound like one’. I think this is something that I say regularly to kids in my class!

McQueen starts by discussing each generational group and gives readers an insight into the era that they were born in and the characteristics that classify each generation.

In the next part of the book McQueen looks at 9 ‘Paradigm Rifts’ between Gen Y and other generations – patience, respect, the concept of truth, communication, affirmation, the future, loyalty, work ethic and learning.

From a teacher perspective the paradigm of respect is interesting. For previous generations we have a belief that respect is something that is given to elders and people of authority. However, Gen Y believe that you do not automatically get respect but that it has to be earned. Gen Y will give respect to you if they view it as reciprocal and if they see you as a real person and develop a relationship. This is something that I notice at school – relationships are everything. If the kids feel like you care about them and they can trust you then they will give you respect but they will not just respect you because you are a teacher and say they should respect you.

The other paradigm rift I was interested in was the one of communication. For Gen Y it is not so much what is communicated but how it is communicated. They have a need to be connected at all times. As teachers of students do we connect with them in a variety of ways. Do you use this generations modes of communication – Facebook, twitter, blogs? These quotes caught my attention:

“In 1950, the average 14 year old had a vocabulary of over 25,000 words in contrast to the average modern 14 year old whose vocabulary consist of just 10,000 words”. Pp88

And “Sometimes when parents complain that they wish their children would communicate with them more, I jokingly suggest that they open a Facebook account or follow their kids on Twitter. that is where this generation does all it’s talking!” pp 89

Learning is another rift that interested me. Gen Y need to see the purpose of what they are learning. They are visual learners rather than auditory. They are happy (and capable of) learning whilst listening to music, laying on the floor, answering text messages. But they can be easily distracted and this multi-tasking can come at the cost of creativity, inventiveness and productivity.

How do you expect your class to learn?
Is working in silence the best option for these learners or for us?

So how do we engage this generation?

We need to put relationships before roles. Relationships need to be authentic and interesting. “Relationships are the foundation for engagement with this group”.

As teachers we need to make learning relevant and connected to students lives. They need to understand the purpose of what they are learning and how it fits in with everything else.

Teachers no longer need to be the fountain of knowledge but the facilitator of learning. “It means shifting from a focus of knowing the right answers to asking the right questions.

We need to give regular, positive feedback that is specific and honest.

Use stories to help teach content. “The most significant lessons I life are better caught than taught” pp169. Share your experiences, setbacks, hardships and successes.

This book was an easy read but one that made me think about my generation and the generation of kids that I teach and interact with. Many of the kids that I currently teach would be classed as Gen Z however I can see similarities and similar challenges. It made me question my view of the Gen Y kids and think about how I connect with them and how I answer the “why?” questions.

This book is a must read for teachers and parents!


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