What We Can Learn from Gen-Y – Relationships Matter


Since this is the month to focus on thankfulness (even though this should be a year long focus), I’ve decided to post on characteristics and attributes that make GenY great and how we (the old people) can learn from them. I believe today’s students and young people get a bad rap from my generation. So to people my age, I say, “We don’t have it all together and can learn a lot from these youngens” (this is Alabama talk).

Students today have a difficult time making decisions without input. They need to talk about it with their friends, coworkers, girlfriend/boyfriend, etc. and get lots of input before being able to settle on an answer. Many see this as a fault, and while I do believe parents and teachers should teach decision making strategies to young people, we can learn from their desire to gain input from others. Many adults don’t seek advice in decision making and never consider other points of view; we view this as a sign of weakness. But GenY wants to hear and consider all points of view. I love this about them because they are essentially saying, “I need others.”

My classes are divided into family groups. Each family gets together two or three times a week for discussion, peer editing, creating, writing, or random off-the-wall assignments. I believe these “family meetings” are just as beneficial as whole class instruction because students listen to and learn from each other. (Don’t worry – my kiddos do plenty of individual work as well). Even when I homeschooled my kids, I was constantly grouping them with other students for history and English lessons (aren’t the humanities great) and watched them blossom in groups. Even if your child is not grouped at school, you can think of ways to do extension activities at home with their friends or even as a family. Intentional group activities with academic purpose have great benefits!

The other great thing about GenY being relational is they are starving for mentors. I am always surprised at how these students are longing for adults to be in their lives. And this is great because we (the old people) need them in our lives as well (how else will we learn technology). As much as I love students, I equally love working with young teachers. They restore my passion for education, give me creative ideas, and remind me how out of touch I am with pop culture, and they need my insight that only comes from being “well-seasoned” in life. We need each other!!

I spent the last year investing in these two young women (beautiful Allie and Amy in the picture above) who are now in college (sniff, sniff – I miss them). In reality, they taught me more about life than I taught them. Actually, we taught each other, and that’s the beauty of mentor relationships. We all – no matter what age – can learn from others.

What young person can you invest in this next year? (Hint, if you’re a parent, you child should be on the top of the list but don’t stop there).

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