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Playing the Generation Game

The winning ways of one Maryland team

By Mary Ellen Flannery
Better than birth order, more reliable than star signs, the new hot predictor  of workplace behavior is generational differences. According to popular research, Baby Boomers, Generation X'ers, and the latest batch of employees, called the Millennials, Gen Y, or the Nexters, have different work styles. Understanding them can help educators of all ages work more effectively together.


Cue music. [Get Ready 4 This]

Loudspeaker: Introdooocing...the seventh-grade team at Shady Grove Middle School in Gaithersburg, Maryland! First on the field, your captains, Tee Giles and Rob Ferrante.

Next up, teaching reading, social studies, and math, heeeere's the Boomers! Ann Stretch, Kathy Dalkiewicz, and Peggy Raffel!

On special ed and science, the X'ers! Jennifer Gibson and Yvonne Mah!

Aaaaand, finally, in counseling, English, and more math, the marvelous Millennials! Erika May, Craig Shearer, and Laura Smith!

[Team bows. Applause.]

From the Playbook

Inside Shady Grove's seventh-grade team room, there's a white board with a long list of student names. Every kid on the board needs help, a little nudge to get across the goal line—and team members are prepared to carry them

on their own backs, if necessary. During daily meetings, the team talks strategy. What kind of approach works with Julia? Does John need a behavior plan? Whatever it takes to make every kid a winner, they'll do it. Recently, they tackled the case of a sweet seventh- grader who lives in a group home, misses way too much school, and is falling far behind academically. The solution? Craig Shearer will become his personal mentor. "We want kids to understand—we're all responsible for you," says Captain Rob Ferrante.

Across the Ages

Gone are the days when a teacher could firmly shut her classroom door and say, "This is my court!" These days, most teachers are members of teams—here's some advice on making those relationships work:

"My biggest thing would be: Listen to [the Boomers]. Regardless of whether you agree with their every strategy, they have 20-plus, 30-plus years of experience, and that can't be ignored."

—Amanda Wetzel, 27, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

"The young ones are all, 'Kumbaya! Let's all work together!' But instead of me saying, 'Oh, how immature,' I think, 'OK! They're not immature and they're willing to learn.'"

—Yvette Fleming, 37, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

 "Two of my three co-teachers are probably young enough to be my daughters, and it's not even an issue….Their enthusiasm and optimism rejuvenates my energy."
—Cindy Roberson, 55, East Hartford, Connecticut

"Listen. Truly listen."

—Erin Wiggins, 24, Franklin County, Kentucky

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Photos by Charles Votaw

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