Teaching to the Z Generation

In any profession, you have to know the audience of the people you work with, or serve. As educators, what do we really know about our current students who are members of Generation Z? How can we use that as school leaders to promote effective instructional strategies to meet their learning needs?
To explore this topic more, we first need a common understanding of what the generations are. According to this ThoughtCo article, they are defined as follows:
●Generation Z: Born in the Late 80’s to about 2010 ●Millennials (aka Generation Y): Born between 1980-Late 90’s ●Generation X: Born between 1965-1979 ●Baby Boomers: Born between 1946-1964 ●Silent or Greatest Generation: Born in 1945 or earlier
To know how to educate them, we have to understand how a Generation Z’er is different from a Millennial. They represent about 25% of our population. They are a group that was born in the era of smartphones, and those devices have become more robust with the passage of each year. According to this sourc…

The Evolution of the School Lunch Menu

For anyone in their 30s or older, it comes as no surprise that over the past two decades, America’s palate has evolved and diversified. Tuna casserole and meatloaf dinners have been replaced with meals that have much bolder flavors influenced by many ethnic backgrounds. This CNBC article from 2017 that discussed this trend came to this conclusion about how and why this evolution has occurred: “The changing culinary landscape is the result of increased social media and television coverage that expand consumer awareness, and millennial eaters who are more adventurous and experimental with their food choices.” As you might expect, the changing palate for adults also means a new palate for kids, and that has had a big impact on school lunch programs from coast to coast.
Recently, I brought an old friend from high school who hasn’t stepped foot in a school since we graduated twenty years ago through the school lunch line in the New Hampshire high school where I am the principal. She was ast…

Flexible Learning Starts With Flexible Classroom Spaces

The latest craze with my New Hampshire high school teachers is to supplement, or in some cases replace their institutional, inflexible classroom furniture with more student-friendly options. In a school with a very tiny furniture budget, my staff has accomplished this task by soliciting donations, applying for grants, and in some cases, building their own furniture. A walk through the few re-imagined spaces that we have completed thus far is reminiscent of a trip through a trendy Ikea showroom. Many of the individual student desks have been replaced with tables on wheels that can be reconfigured as needed by students, comfortable reading chairs and lounges, and even carpeted corners with bean bags and pillows. Two of my ninth grade math teachers actually purchased white board paint at the local hardware store to coat their tabletops so that students could work through their math problems right at their collaborative tables with colorful dry-erase markers. The local Chief of Police hel…

The Relationship Between Student Behavior and Engagement

A recent Mind/Shift article by Katrina Schwartz highlighted the efforts by San Francisco middle school principal Michael Essien to get classroom behavior under control in his school. Essien described his problem in this way:“Students weren't learning because students were having challenges in the classroom with their own academic abilities and or behaviors. Teachers who were trying to teach were having a difficult time getting into lessons because they were dealing with behaviors. It was challenging to hold collaborative conversations among the teachers because all teachers could deal with in any setting was the overwhelming behavior.” Essien found one solution by helping his teachers develop more engaging, project-based, hands-on learning activities. “I saw that kids who are in public school, if they were exposed to certain pedagogy and had certain content, that they can learn regardless of situation,” Essien said. “Kids had a great time, especially since in the project-based lea…

Improving Student Engagement for Students With Disabilities

Recently, I co-hosted a chat on Twitter on student engagement for, an organization that focuses on giving parents of children who struggle with learning and attention issues the tools and supports they need to be successful. As we get ready to embark on a new school year, I thought an opportunity to summarize the chat and the resources that were shared would be timely. You can review the entire chat, which was held on 7/11/2018 at 12:00 PM eastern time, at the hashtag #ldchat.
The staff at Understood opened the chat by asking the question, “What does a motivated child look like? What does a non-motivated child look like?” The staff of Understood noted that motivation can often lead kids to keep trying even when they face hurdles, and shared the article, The Importance of Staying Motivated for Kids With Learning and Attention Issues as a resource for educators and parents to consider. It was noted that children develop self-esteem by experiencing repeated successes, and d…

Schools Could Learn a Thing or Two from Driver Education

This blog was written originally for the NASSP Principal's Blog School of Thought.
I have spent more than a decade as the principal of a high school that has gained national recognition as an early adopter of a competency-based learning model. As one who has been a part of this transition and implementation since its beginning, I am always happy to offer practical advice to fellow principals on the topic. The most popular question I am asked is how to start a conversation to introduce the idea of competency-based learning to parents and other stakeholders who do not work in the education field. To date, I have found no better way to do this than to relate it to a very common assessment experience that most adults have in common: Obtaining a driver’s license.
Think about this: Driving a car is a life or death skill, and as a result, states have developed a very reliable system to ensure that people are not issued a driver’s license until they can prove that they are proficient in the…

Detracking Math Classrooms in San Francisco

In an article last month, Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuk highlighted an initiative now four years old in the San Francisco schools where middle and high school students are heterogeneously grouped for math instruction. The city has leveled the playing field by enrolling all students in math courses of equal rigor in middle school all the way through Algebra 1 in high school. There are no “honors” classes. There are no accelerated programs where students can take Algebra 1 in 8th grade. Once students reach Geometry, the brakes are released and students have the opportunity to be tracked into programs that move at different paces.
This practice was not implemented without controversy. As Sawchuk explained, “San Francisco has done away with one of the key avenues that the well-connected use to give their children an academic advantage. Fallout was swift. Parents, concerned about rigor and whether their children would be able to take calculus by senior year, barraged everyone from the di…