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!

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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

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!

Classroom Tool: Tablets

Tablets bring a new experience to the classroom. Since their inception only a few years ago, I’ve seen them transform education! I’m not the most tech-savvy person, but as an embracer of change I knew I needed to get on the bus or I’d be left behind.

Remember: technology isn’t technology if it’s always been around. A light bulb isn’t technology—but to my great grandparents it was. Tablets are technology to you and me because we didn’t always have them, but they aren’t to Generation Z because they don’t know life without them.

Turn on the light bulb and get on board! Here are my rules for using tablets in the classroom:

  1. Don’t stress yourself out. You won’t know how to use every function or app—and that’s OK! 
  2. Validate your students by thanking them if they show you something you didn’t already know. Allow them to teach you. 
  3. Take a free class at Apple or go on YouTube to watch tutorials. If you don’t know how to tie your shoelaces, you’d better learn. The same goes for tablets. 
  4. Your students should have “charging homework” every night. Be sure they come to class with full batteries on their tablets. 
  5. Be patient with older students who will be out of their comfort zones. You can’t cater your class to the majority. It’s your job to teach to every person—and some require more patience than others. 
  6. Have your students capture important moments on video. Perhaps it’s a live demonstration or an important part of a lecture. Allow your class to take pictures and video. 
  7. Encourage your students to share daily life at school on their social media posts. Create a hashtag specific to your class or a subject you’re teaching. 
  8. Have students check your facts or find videos and pictures relevant to your class topic using simple internet searches. 
  9. Take advantage of apps for surveys and teaching tools. 
  10. Transition handouts to documents made available on their tablets. You can easily share PDF’s for them to store. 

Never underestimate the power of an educator!

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Classroom Tool: White Boards & Flip Charts

I love using white boards and flip charts in the classroom—but there is a time and place for using these. The main difference between these tools and something like Power Point is that white boards and flip charts encourage participation and collaboration. You can’t change a point or add someone’s idea to a slide show as you’re presenting it, but you can add it to a white board.

If you’re having open dialog and you want group input, using a white board or flip chart in your classroom immediately creates conversation. There’s something about a student’s idea being added to a board that excites them. Here are my rules for using these tools:

  1. Make sure the board is clean. You can’t keep using an eraser over and over again. You need to use spray cleaner on it occasionally. Writing on top of a dirty or foggy board is worse than not writing at all.
  2. Test your markers before class starts and throw out the bad ones.
  3. Test your markers to know which are skinny, fat, etc. Depending on how much you’re writing, this is important to know!
  4. Test your markers on a white board. Some are squeaky! You want to make sure your markers don’t become a distraction in the middle of great class discussion.
  5. Prep your flip chart. Having facts and figures written lightly in pencil at the top can serve as a reminder while you’re teaching. Sometimes adding pictures ahead of time to the chart will make for pleasant surprises when you flip the page.
  6. If your flip chart has a sticky back and you’re planning on peeling and sticking it on the wall—make sure it actually sticks! Sometimes I get a defective pad and then it slides off my walls in the middle of class, causing a giant distraction.
  7. Always print—never write in cursive.
  8. Start writing at the top of a flip chart and go down (would you believe most people start near the middle?!)
  9. Unless the front row is set back a good distance from your flip chart, don’t use the bottom third of the paper. Every eye needs to see it.
  10. Keep permanent markers away from your white boards. We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt this humiliation!


Never underestimate the power of an educator!

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