their toenails and tuning out nagging parents is all in a day’s work.
Echo Boomers also grew up with increasing school violence, gangs, economic uncertainty, a shrinking middle class, an increase in poverty and homelessness and a war on terror. Nevertheless they are a conﬁdent generation: optimistic, ﬂexible, street-smart, sociable and civic-minded. They enjoy working with other idealistic people. Some researchers say they dis- play many of the early ideals of young Boomers (before they got jobs and credit cards), but are more practical in their approach. They are more likely to work for change within a system than to take to the streets against it.
On entering the workforce, Echo Boomers show a keen sense of participation and entitlement and may be quite surprised when their suggestions for workplace improvements aren’t welcomed or acted upon. They respect authority but are not in awe of it, and will treat the receptionist and the company president with an equal amount of respect.
“Paying your dues” is an alien concept and Echos expect quick career advancement. They want meaningful work. Having grown up with attentive parents, video games and the Internet– all providing immediate feedback – they expect the workplace to deliver the same instant gratiﬁcation. They expect respect. If they feel badly treated, they will broadcast their grievance to a worldwide network of peers at the click of a mouse.
Echo Boomers are entering the education workplace in a time of relative peace. Stories of the battles fought and gains made and lost seldom resonate with them. They are eager and enthusiastic about building the optimistic future they believe awaits them, and they waste little time and effort in reﬂecting on the past.
Like cultural and racial diversity, generational differences bring unique and valuable strengths and perspectives to the workplace and to the federation. By understanding, appreciating and building on it, we can enhance the potential of all to contribute to the profession and the federation.
Bridging the generational divide
- Don’t judge the actions or statements of others through your own generational lens. Don’t make assumptions; ask for a discussion.
- Resolve that for one week you will not start any sentence with the phrase “If you had been there in …”
- Ask seasoned staﬀ members about their experiences in their early years of teaching.
- Seek out a colleague from another generation and discuss an issue facing education.
- Oﬀer to help a younger colleague set up an activity for students. Ask an older colleague for suggestions.
- Cultural icons are never universal; they belong to a speciﬁc time and place. Don’t assume your colleagues will recognize generational markers like Howdy Doody, Polkaroo, or Barney the Dinosaur.
- Suggest a staﬀ discussion about generational