Know Thy Employee: The Millennial Educator

While nearly two years old, this interview featuring Simon Sinek is one of my all-time favourites. One question and Sinek is out of the gate! He sheds much enlightenment on millennials (age demographic born between 1984-2002) and their purpose-seeking motivation. Sinek also argues that many companies today are not equipped to support them and a general lack of understanding is costing everyone.

I wondered if the same could be said of the public services sector like, say…education? I can’t help but notice new pre-service and beginning teachers and their approach to their chosen profession. It appears…different than that of my generation who it is argued have the greatest influence on the nature of work.

Check out Sinek’s precisive anecdote:

While fellow Generation X educators view our career in education to be to the ‘bitter end’, the same is not true of our adjacent demography. I know several millennial-aged educators. Many are entering the teaching profession as a second career, and many more do not see themselves remaining in the profession ‘until retirement’. Could my generation be the last of the ‘lifelong educator’? Last of the ‘company people’? What could be the possible future fallout of the ideology around careers, work, and values?

In my short stint as a school administrator, I had the privilege of supporting numerous teacher-candidates working in our school. Millennials most of them. Numerous conversations with teacher-candidates from the West Kootenay Teacher Education Program were also a daily occurrence. Here’s a brief excerpt from a conversation with a teacher-candidate:

Me: How was today?

Candidate: Good. I really have some great plans for connecting the class with the LGBTQ+ community. 

Me: [nods] Is there a particular project that you have in mind?

Candidate: No, not really. Just want to get them connected. It’s important.

Me: Agreed. Thanks for doing that. 

Candidate: For sure.

Me: Are you enjoying your time in the classroom connecting with the students?

Candidate: Yeah for sure. But it’s definitely a lot more work than I really thought it would ever be.

Me: How so?

Candidate: Oh, geez, the planning. There’s a lot of planning. Putting the needs of students before my own. Connecting with their parents. Inclusion. Differentiated instruction. And there’s the authentic assessment. [laughs]

Me: It’s a tough gig for sure. I find it can be a fine line between chaos and sanity sometimes. 

Candidate: How did you manage a career in education? I mean, I can’t see that for me.

Me: Hmmm. I guess for me teaching has become a calling. Not just a job. It’s part of me. Of who I am. I guess it’s part of my identity, I suppose. Corny, eh? [laughs]

Candidate: [nods]

Me: Don’t get me wrong. I can’t see me doing this into my 60s. I often fear ‘the fade’ that I have seen in many seasoned educators. It’s also known as ‘the hang-on’. I don’t want that for me. It kinda scares me.

Candidate:[laughs] Oh, my neither. I think that this is part of a five-year plan. It’s part of my journey. I see working at an NGO [non-governmental organization] in a few years. I need to travel. I think I need lots of opportunities to help others. I feel that there’s so much to do.

Make no mistake. I do not regard millennials as unfocused and uncommitted layabouts. Cruising the globe in search of hedonistic opportunities to feel good about themselves. Rather it is quite the opposite. I envy their ability to keep their values at the forefront. To be purposeful. To make an impact. In whatever it is they are engaged. Paramount is the need to view their work as having value and meaning.

Because in the end, hey man, it’s just a job. Right?


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