Feature

X, Y, BOOM! Generations at Work

Barbara Richter

use and violence, and the faces of missing children on milk cartons.

Gen Xers  are  a  sceptical  generation  –  they need  proof.  They  grew  up  seeing institutions and revered public figures wracked by scandal. As a result they respect competence and have more faith in themselves and their peer group than in external authority. They are loyal to their relationships but not necessarily to institutions. They are the first generation to date in groups.

Teachers who  are  Gen Xers work hard  and spend cautiously, having begun their careers with heavy education debt loads. They know they are the first generation that may not surpass their parents economically.

Gen  Xers  also  want  balance:  they  are  not prepared  to  sacrifice  their  health,  marriages, relationships, and personal lives to career as their parents did. Freedom is their ultimate reward. They  seek  autonomy,  a  comfortable  schedule, and time to spend with family and friends (who are generally not people from work).

Gen Xers started teaching in the mid-1980s, and prefer a casual and relaxed workplace. They see many Baby Boomer achievements – like protection for seniority – as an impediment rather than a protection against indiscriminate layoffs.

They have also experienced radical changes in the profession and in the workplace: the recession of the early 90s; the “social contract” imposed by the provincial NDP government; the subsequent election of a Conservative government that cut education funding; the creation of a professional regulatory body, the College of Teachers; school board amalgamations; the amalgamation of teachers’ federations and the removal of principals as members of the federation; new curriculum and standardized testing.

Echo Boomers  a planned childhood

Now just beginning to enter the profession. Echo Boomers are the children of Gen Xers, younger Boomers, or Boomers who  chose to have children later in life. Echos grew up in a time when there was an emphasis on child-rearing practices and the importance of the early years. Their parents planned their lives and were active participants in every aspect of it. They are the first generation to grow up with personal calendars and daytimers. Echos were always welcomed into adult company. Their  participation in family decision-making was encouraged and appreciated. They experienced a wide variety of family structures: two parents, single parents, same- sex parents and blended families. For them, diversity is a given.

Echo Boomers grew up in a world of email, the Internet and globalization. Some researchers believe that because of  their  early exposure to technology, the brains of Echos developed differently so as to make them super-efficient multi-taskers.  Simultaneously text-messaging, listening to downloaded MP3 music files, writing an essay on  Hamlet, clipping