Teaching to Generation Y/Millennials

Teaching to Generation Y/Millennials

Generation Y (aka Millennials) are born between 1981 – 2000. They’re those cocky kids who “know everything” and are becoming CEO’s of large corporations in their 20s. These kids hit the jackpot of being born at a time when technology was on the rise and they were quick adapters.

But at the same time, this has hurt many of them. It’s not uncommon for Millennials to still be living at home with mom and dad, refuse to work an eight hour day or have a new job every other year. In fact, most don’t hold down the same job for more than three years.

While they’re out there searching for the meaning of life and happiness, many are heading back to school or getting a late start in college compared to the old traditional way of attending right out of high school. I have a lot more material that I cover in my full Generational Teaching program, but here’s a quick breakdown of common characteristics of Millennials and how to deal with challenging situations.



  • Pros at multitasking
  • Very goal oriented
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Know how to balance work and home life
  • Participative
  • Good with technology
  • Whenever they want it—want it at the push of a button
  • Want work to be meaningful
  • WILL graduate


CHALLENGE: Can’t focus on one project at a time

WHAT TO DO:  Move at a faster pace. Keep lectures short and do hands-on classes. Create balance by changing things up. Add video, add music, create a sense that your class is spontaneous.


CHALLENGE: On their phones, on the internet

WHAT TO DO: Let them. I have rules for cell phones in the classroom, though.


CHALLENGE: Zero patience. They want it now.

WHAT TO DO: Spit it out; get to your point quickly. Facts first. They don’t need a story. That’s why they love texts. Get to the point!


CHALLENGE: They want everything to be meaningful. (They all want to change the world.)

WHAT TO DO: Remind them of the big picture. Not every single thing will be meaningful, but it will lead to something bigger one day.


Never underestimate the power of an educator!

Photo credit

Teaching to Generation X

Teaching to Generation X

Generation X includes those born between 1965 – 1980. They’re often called the “Lost” or “Forgotten” Generation because they’re sandwiched in between two of the largest generations (Baby Boomers and Millennials) in American history. As Milliennials in the workplace become more successful, Generation X often feels inadequate and they’re trying to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of the 21st century workplace environment.

They’re not completely behind on technology, but they’re not quick to embrace new technology either. For them, success is measured by the money in their bank account and they often struggle to find the workplace/home life balance.

These students are filling up post-secondary classes around the nation as they better fit the description of adult/non-traditional students. I have a lot more material that I cover in my full Generational Teaching program, but here’s a quick breakdown of common characteristics of Generation X and how to deal with challenging situations.



  • Self-reliant
  • Skeptical
  • Wants structure and direction
  • Ask why a lot and challenge people
  • Individual – prefers to work alone (Entrepreneurs)
  • Direct and immediate communication
  • Need continual feedback
  • KNOWS they’ll graduate


CHALLENGE: Skeptical

WHAT TO DO: Know your stuff. Be prepared for their questions and anticipate what they might ask or question.


CHALLENGE: Self-reliant; would rather work alone

WHAT TO DO: Put them in a group, giving them their own task to own in that group.


CHALLENGE: Need continual feedback

WHAT TO DO: Offer it more often! Correct them on the spot with tactfulness.


CHALLENGE: Need to know everything immediately with a fear of missing something or getting left behind

WHAT TO DO: Create a syllabus, stick to a calendar with soft and hard deadlines, etc. Make sure your communication is clear if something changes.


CHALLENGE: Crave structure and direction

WHAT TO DO: Remove clutter, have clear expectations, allow them to sit in the same seat everyday, don’t throw them curve balls.


Never underestimate the power of an educator!

Photo credit

Teaching to Baby Boomers

Teaching to Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers were born between 1946 – 1964. Although they don’t make up much of our student population, many are going back to school and we find ourselves in situations where we teach to “boomers.” Personally, I teach baby boomers all the time– in seminars, at conferences and other events. You might not find yourself teaching to this generation day to day, but it’s good to know how to teach them if you ever do.

Teaching older people can be quite intimating. They’re often set in their ways and don’t take criticism well. But boomers also tend to be very thoughtful, intentional and great team players. Every generation comes with good and bad characteristics. Teaching is about learning how to educate all different types of people.

I have a lot more material that I cover in my full Generational Teaching program, but here’s a quick breakdown of common characteristics of baby boomers and how to deal with challenging situations.



  • Incredible work ethic
  • Crusade causes
  • Team player
  • They love to have meetings (discuss things)
  • In person communication
  • Question authority
  • Don’t appreciate feedback
  • Need to be factual
  • They want to feel valued and needed
  • Value family
  • Work to live
  • Needs interaction
  • HOPE to graduate


CHALLENGE: Constantly questioning the things you’re teaching and wanting reasons to back up your answers

WHAT TO DO: Speak in facts. Be logical. Teach with confidence. Know your material.


CHALLENGE: Can’t take criticism.

WHAT TO DO: Use “I” statements instead of “you.” Positive – negative – positive sandwich.


CHALLENGE: Thinks they’re the hardest worker in the room.

WHAT TO DO: Validate them and give them a task.


CHALLENGE: Low self-confidence (especially around techy stuff).

WHAT TO DO: Make them feel needed. Put them in a group with tech-savvy individuals.


CHALLENGE: Needs to build a binder of papers, etc.

WHAT TO DO: Give them websites to visit and encourage them to print out material.


CHALLENGE: Don’t like to be told to be quiet.

WHAT TO DO: Engage them a conversation or classroom discussion. Give them an opportunity to respond, but be in control of the conversation.


Never underestimate the power of an educator!

Photo credit

Grading 101

Grading 101

Tests aren’t generally something people look forward to. As a teacher, I love them! When you think about it, tests are the best way to gauge how well you’ve taught something (or how well you didn’t).

I talk about this a lot when I speak, but one of the biggest mistakes teachers make is teaching to the test. The goal isn’t for our students to get hundreds. The goal is for them to be successful one day in their careers. Telling your students, word for word, test questions ahead of time doesn’t help them when they’ve graduated and are in the field.

I see teachers all the time who grade to be popular. They give everyone 100’s and they’re everyone’s best friend. You’re creating lazy students when you do this. You’re not setting them up to aim high and achieve more. Your grades need to have value otherwise you’re crippling them. You need to have a standard and stick to it.

You’ll have students who ace exams and others who fail. You’ll find some students don’t have to study at all and others who will end up cramming all night. What’s important is that your grading rules are consistent.

Here are some of my rules for grading and testing:

  1. Answers should be direct. Don’t leave things up to interpretation. You need to have clear reasons as to why they scored high or low.
  2. Trick questions are mean. I hated when my teachers used these and your students will hate you, too.
  3. Expect more out of students who have been in school longer.
  4. Don’t grade papers in red. It’s harsh and can hurt someone’s self-image. I like grading in green or blue.
  5. Open book or take home tests create lazy students. They’re searching for the answers—they’re not learning to understand.
  6. If a lot of your students miss a specific question, the responsibility falls on you. Take a look at the way you taught that subject and research a more effective way to communicate it.
  7. Allow some form of make up tests—even if students are absent or late. Have a policy that there will be consequences, such as a certain amount of points off.
  8. Extra credit is not a good way to make up for bad test scores. The fact is that they didn’t know the information and they need to. Allowing them to do something else that they already know how to do doesn’t help them.
  9. Don’t let students grade each others papers. That is a sign of a lazy teacher. In addition, grades should be private between you and the student.
  10. Always give test reviews before an exam.
  11. Always review the answers as a class after you’ve graded the papers. When doing this, allow the students to describe in depth why they answered a certain way. It may help a student who got it wrong.
  12. Have a private conversation with students who continually get bad grades. Use statements like, “Here’s what I noticed when grading your paper,” and find out what you can do to help them succeed. Be their cheerleader!


You should see an array of grades—some should be high and some should be low. Not everyone learns the same or tests the same, so expect grades to be all over the place. What’s important is that you see individuals improving.

Never underestimate the power of an educator.

Classroom Tool: Props

Classroom Tool: Props

Call me cheesy, but I love a good prop! Sometimes the best way to bring a story or a lesson to life is to illustrate it with props. Why else do you think “Show and Tell” was such a highlight in elementary school? The “tell” isn’t always enough. There is something about pulling out an item from your bag of tricks to excite an audience. It breaks up the mundane routine and is a perfect connector!


When using props:

■ Put thought into it ahead of time. Don’t look around your living room the night before class to try to find something that might work into your lesson plan. Look on Pinterest, brainstorm with colleagues and put thought into the props you use.

■ Use them as a teaser. Give your students a reason to be at school tomorrow! End your class with a prop teaser. They’ll be intrigued and wonder how it relates to tomorrow’s class.

■ Have it set up in your classroom. Whether you’re teaching anatomy and have a skeleton next to you or a typewriter to teach the evolution of technology—having props already set up in the room before your students walk in is a great way to get them curious and involved.

■ You don’t have to be elaborate. Maybe you’re teaching about a certain decade so you bring in an item or piece of clothing from that era. Whatever props you decide to include, you don’t have to go overboard. They don’t have to be expensive or over the top.


Props are meant to enhance a class, not make it. You don’t have to put a lot of money behind them, but sometimes they can make a huge difference. Illustrations with props are great for your kinesthetic and visual learners to learn.

Never underestimate the power of an educator!