Gen X in Education: Don’t be Late

Generation X

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Chrisinplymouth from Flickr

Our little group has always been and always will until the end – Nirvana

I’ve been mulling over what it means to be a member of a generation that is smaller than the generation that came before it and the generations that have followed. You see, I’m a member of that “forgotten” generation known as Gen X. Ive been reading “X Saves the World” and finding it entertaining and informative. Because this generation is a minority sandwiched between the Baby Boomers, Y gen, and Mellennials, I’ll fully understand if you skip reading this post and move on to other compositions that appeal to the masses. However, if you are compelled to read further, then I welcome you to this reflective piece of writing.

At the beginning of this school year I sat in a room with other administrators to hear a presenter give a speech on generational differences. He asked those in attendance to raise a hand if they were born between certain years. As he did this a vast majority went up for the Baby Boomer generation. Then he came to my range. I sat in the front row and raised my hand when he asked who was born between 1965-1980. I saw an interesting look cross his face as he noted me then scanned the room and stated “just you?” I glanced around the room and apparently it was true; I was the only administrator who was a member of Generation X. I thoroughly enjoyed his speech, however it was tailored to the Boomer principals dealing with Mellennials. I found myself in the unique position of reversing a great deal of what he said to help me work with my Boomer-Mellennial faculty.

Many of the traits associated with Gen X are vital to pushing education in new directions that have the potential to help improve student learning. Here are just a few traits associated with my compatriots:

  • Expects immediate and ongoing feedback & is comfortable giving feedback to others
  • Independent
  • Resilient
  • Highly adaptable
  • Dislike authority & rigid work environments
  • Eager to learn new skills
  • Works to live does not live to work
  • Not impressed by titles
  • Technically competent

The list goes on and on. As I read through the list above, I find that there is a need for each of these qualities in order to make significant changes to education. It would seem that built into the very fiber of my generation is a need to ask “why” something is done rather than to blindly accept what has always been. This is a valuable asset when taking up arms to challenge educational practices that have been in place for more than a century.

I’m under no delusion, we also have our weaknesses. Gen Xers can be overly confident. We can sometimes push forward and think, in our own naïveté that we know best. It’s a double edged sword. Sometimes that confidence is necessary to ignite real change and to weather the maelstroms that threaten to sink our initiatives. Other times, our disdain for authority hinders our ability to change course when the rockets come at us sideways. However, more often than not, it’s a benefit rather than a weakness.

Being a member of the minority generation perhaps means that even as more and more people become administrators, the number of Gen X administrators will always be small. However this should in no way hinder our ability to affect real, significant change in education. We may be a small group when it comes to generation population numbers, but we are also innovative thinkers who desire new methods of solving old problems.

I am the first Gen X principal in my diocese; an honor and a pressure that I embrace. I consider myself the first shot fired across the bow by Generation X to herald innovative, revolutionary change in Catholic education in my diocese. However, I cannot do it alone. It will be with the help of my Boomer, Y, and Mellennial colleagues that we truly improve student learning. I may be at the helm of the ship I call my school, but it is the crew that must trust in the direction in which I steer our course. Conversely, I must trust to the strengths and skills of the other generations that sail with me.

Gen X may be a small generation, however we have the potential to enact real, significant change. I call upon my brothers and sisters of my generation to stand up and apply for leadership positions in education. The time to make our voices heard is now. In the words of Nirvana (a symbol of Gen X):

“Take your time, hurry up, the choice is yours. Don’t be late”.

Perhaps it’s that last line that means the most. We (Gen Xers) do things the way we want, but we are rapidly approaching the point where we may be too late to affect change. So don’t be late my fellow X colleagues. We need principals with your unique qualities.

I found this to be an interesting reflection on my generation and value your feedback and thoughts. I would love it if you would share with me a comment or two on this topic.

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My Vision for Catholic Education

Faith in Education

 

Some History

 

Some of you may know that I work within the Catholic school system.  This is an important fact because it means that my worldview is heavily influenced by this system.  There are certain freedoms that are allowed within a Catholic school that are not as readily available in the public system.  For example the ability to make quick changes to curriculum or programs without all the red tape that the public system has to endure.  I feel for my brothers and sisters in public schools and I am impressed by their ability to carry on in this very difficult time for educators.

However, this is not a post about the differences.  Rather, I’m telling you that I am part of the Catholic school system because its important for this post. I’m currently enrolled in a course at Loyola Marymount University, which focuses upon mission driven education.  One of our assignments was to write our own personal vision of Catholic education.  Some perceive Catholic schools as a dying entity, however I hold an opposite view. We have hit a rough spot due to an unwillingness to change (which is built into our system) but some of us have begun to take our heads out of the sand long enough to know that we must start running toward radical changes to keep our schools alive.

What follows is the paper I wrote about my personal vision of Catholic education.  If it were up to me, this would be a little shorter, however there were some elements of the assignment that had to be covered. What I can say, is that I wholeheartedly believe in what I wrote, which is why I’m going to share my paper (Vision – Dream) with you.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on this topic.

-JW

 

My Vision of Catholic Education

 

In order to describe my personal vision of Catholic education, it becomes necessary to first understand a core philosophical tenet to which I adhere.  Greenleaf (2002) expertly expresses the philosophical perspective I maintain:

Not much happens without a dream.  And for something great to happen, there must be a great dream.  Behind every great achievement is a dreamer of great dreams.  Much more than a dreamer is required to bring it to reality, but the dream must be there first. (p. 30)

This statement clearly depicts the necessity of a leader, his or her colleagues, and of course the adherence to a vision (dream) that is unwavering.

My dream for Catholic education is to raise it to new heights, the likes of which have never been seen.  My vision is to establish a Catholic school system that supports education for all Catholic students regardless of their socioeconomic status. Miller (2006) underscores this importance; he stated, “All Catholic children, not just those whose families have the financial means, have a right to Catholic education” (p. 15). Providing affordable education to our Catholic community is of the utmost importance.

My vision is to work toward a reality in which Catholic schools surpass the zenith of enrollment experienced in 1965 when approximately 5.6 million students were enrolled in 13,500 Catholic schools (Reardon, Cheadle, & Robinson, 2009).  During this decade, roughly 12 percent of all children enrolled in schools the United States were enrolled in Catholic schools (Walch, 1996, p. 1). In order to facilitate this, Catholic education must focus, not only upon being financial accessible to its students, but also on its ability to demonstrate a strong Catholic identity while remaining on the forefront of educational excellence.

Jesus Christ must be at the center of Catholic education.  It is easy to become caught up in a maelstrom of secular educational issues, however it is more important to focus upon the spiritual development of the child, lest he or she lose connection with their Catholic faith. “The gospel of Jesus Christ and his very person are to inspire and guide the Catholic school in every dimension of its life and activity…” (Miller, 2006, p. 25). Holding to this foundation will allow all that is accomplished within the school to serve the spiritual growth and development of the entire school community.

Once this foundation has been set, it becomes manifest that we must strive for excellence in every aspect of the Catholic school.  My vision is that Catholic schools will provide an education experience that will surpass public schools. Catholic education has the ability to drive education research and new pedagogical implementations.  Providing our schools with leading technologies and teachers, who are trained to use them correctly, will help to secure a prosperous future for our students.

Catholic schools are well poised to make this a reality.  According to Walch (1996), “Where Catholic schools had once followed every innovation introduced in public education, the roles have been reversed.  Catholic schools are now laboratories for the development of effective tools in reaching a broad cross-section of children” (p. 244). Maintaining this view of Catholic schools as learning laboratories focused upon the spiritual and academic excellence of our students will help to ensure that Catholic education thrives in the United States.

The key to attaining this vision of Catholic education will be to ensure that lay educators are well versed in Catholic teachings, as well as educational research and methodology.  In order to make this a reality, leaders who hold a similar vision of Catholic education will need to emerge.  These leaders should embody servant leadership.  Jesus said, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all”  (Mark 1:43-44, New International Version).  These leaders must not be passive; they must seek to strengthen Catholic schools and shape a future in which the Catholic school is a thriving entity (Lowney, 2003, p. 33).

With the reduction of religious personnel in Catholic schools, the laity will increasingly need to strengthen and maintain the Catholic identity and academic integrity within Catholic education (Cook, 2007, p. vi; Miller, 2006, p. 5).  According to Miller (2006), we know that the Catholic church will survive, and that it “… must have schools that are recognizably Catholic” (p. 7). Therefore, it is important that leaders in Catholic education emerge who are willing to shoulder the duty of ensuring the success of Catholic education.

My vision is to work with these leaders in close collaboration, across multiple diocese. This will help us to achieve the dream of raising Catholic education to new heights. This vision will enable students to grow spiritually in the love of Jesus Christ, while expanding their future horizons through academic excellence.  “A Catholic educator is a person who gives testimony by his or her life” (Miller, 2006, p. 53).  My desire is to give testimony through the acts of my life, which will help Catholic schools to attain my vision for their future thriving success.

 

 


 

References

Cook, T. (2007). Architects of Catholic Culture: Designing & Building Catholic Culture in Catholic Schools. Washington DC: National Catholic Education Association.

Greenleaf, R. (2002). Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power & Greatness (25th Anniversary Edition ed.). New York: Paulist Press.

Lowney, C. (2003). Heroic Leadership. Chicago: Loyola Press.

Miller, J. M. (2006). The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools. Atlanta: Solidarity Association.

Reardon, S., Cheadle, J., & Robinson, J. (2009). The Effect of Catholic Schooling on Math and Reading Development in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2(1), 45-87.

Walch, T. (1996). Parish School. New York: Crossroad Publishing.