Generation Z Teachers and My New Hope

When I first started talking about Gen Z at VLK Architects, my daughter was a high school student, and I would share with the firm--and with clients--what the experts were saying, along with my own examples of her social adventures as a student, adolescent, and “theatre geek” (her words). I read everything that Jason Dorsey shared about my daughter's generation, I tried to make it make sense as it applied to learning environments, and continued to watch my daughter grow. Fast forward, she’s student teaching now at Texas Tech University and will be teaching high school theatre this fall. I wonder how her generation will influence the next generation of students.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Jason Dorsey at The Future of Schools Symposium. I did not know he was a Texan and found him to be as personable as he was informative. He emphasized some key factors that speak to my daughter’s generation. We liked his message so much that we asked his associate, Alicia Rainwater, to present her thoughts to leaders at VLK Architects last week. Her message affirmed what I learned from Jason, but this time, it hit home profoundly. As I took notes, I was filled with excitement and newfound hope as a fellow educator who still wants to change the world one person at a time. You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom from the teacher.

Gen Z will be the first generation to teach about 9/11 without being able to recall it personally. The Great Recession is the defining event of this generation. Ironically, they are notable for being “fiscally pragmatic,” and most had a savings account in place early in life. They are also entering the workforce without debt. Given these factors, I believe teachers now entering the education profession have the clarity to provide and support their students in ways we have not yet seen.

They care about climate change and social justice – polarizing issues that impact our society. Yet, these new teachers may ultimately be the ones to bring harmony to the debate. Is that really possible? I have hope. This generation will be the most diverse we have ever seen. That deserves to be celebrated, as so many more students will be able to identify daily with role models who lead in the classroom.

My daughter texted me this afternoon with a simple, “I can’t wait until I’m in my own classroom >>double heart emoji<<,” giving me a glimpse into her day. She can’t wait and is ready to impact her students to become better and stronger each day as actors, technicians, costume designers, makeup artists, stage managers, directors, etc. She is motivated. She believes in collaboration. She understands expectations, timelines, and is driven to be successful. She is not alone, as her peers at Texas Tech University are like her. They socialize, collaborate in lesson design, and articulate their futures as impactful teachers. I have hope that the future of public education is bright because of this generation entering the vocation.