Watch out Teachers: Gen X is gunning for you…

Our kids have attended Waldorf Schools since they were kindergarten and because of my involvement at the schools I have been noticing a troubling shift in the parent body. As more [X] parents arrive at the school, replacing [Boom] parents, the demands placed on teachers are become more extreme.

I will write something specific to Waldorf schools soon, but for now I want to mention a trend I am seeing at several schools and ask whether this is something going on in other school systems. As Gen X’ers start to make up the majority of the parent body (which is happening in 7th or 8th grade and below right now) they are placing very individualistic demands on teachers. This seems to crop up most in 5th or 6th grade when kids are starting to assert their independence (perhaps this happens earlier in public schools?) and can start complaining to their parents about their school experience. This is when I have seen the Gen X parents getting aggravated with the teacher (and the school administration) if their child’s “needs” are not addressed to their satisfaction. Parents may recruit other parents to their cause and may apply pressure in many ways, ranging from talking in the parking lot to suing the school.

I have written before about Gen X parents, and the reasons for our challenging nature have to do with how we were raised. Generation X were the original “Latchkey kids“, raised during times when the focus was on adult issues (such as civil rights, womens rights, nuclear proliferation, etc…) and we bear the scars of having to fend for ourselves. Many Gen X’ers have promised themselves that this won’t happen to their kids and are over-protective of them as a result. We were also failed by institutions (which were crumbling during much of our youth) and have a deep mistrust of them as a result. That means we hold individuals accountable instead of organizations (which we figure will probably just screw up anyway). So we tend to blame individuals (teachers or administrators in this case) and we expect the institutions to fail in resolving issues.

The results of these actions is that teachers are under intense pressure to perform. In many cases teachers may be forced out of schools by a small band of Gen X parents. This trend has been so consistent in several schools I am associated with that I wondered if it was a larger trend. I want to hear from readers on their experience. Have you seen this sort of pressure placed on elementary school teachers recently? Have teachers in your school district been forced out?

If you are new to generational research, go to my “start here” page for a primer.

12 thoughts on “Watch out Teachers: Gen X is gunning for you…”

  1. While my wife and I (GenX parents both) are strong advocates for our daughter, who she is currently in the 3rd grade, I don't think our requests have been unreasonable. My daughter has ADHD and her teacher has been more than willing to make some accommodations for. At the same time, we have worked with our daughter at home to help improve her behavior in the classroom so that she will be more independent.

    Still there have been some parents at my daughter's school of the type you describe. Like when there was a new Principal who attempted to have an open-door policy concerning placement of students. She got bombarded by overzealous parents lobbying for their kid to have this teacher or that teacher. Suffice to say the open-door policy went bye bye pretty damn quick.

    It was a pretty disgusting display all around. And it seemed to have more to do with the popularity of this teacher among parents then her skills as a teacher. Not that she wasn't good. But the other teacher were good as well. I know my daughter's was. In fact, we couldn't have been more pleased.

    Advocating on behalf of your child is one thing. Engaging in a kind of political posturing that have more to do with the parents desires than the child's needs is just pathetic.

  2. I sent my son to a public school for kindergarden at age 5 last year and was terribly dissappointed. I'm in an upper middle class income (about $80k HH) (higher tax) area that prides itself on its "Blue Ribbon" schools. Well, when I learned the criteria for a 6 year old in kindergarden mid-year for mathmatics is to count to 20, I immediately knew public schools were not for us. My son had been counting in triple digits- yes, up to 999- for a while. I don't consider my son a super genius, but wow, 20? that's just pathetic! (cont.d)

    1. @Hil*S – I think your situation is a classic case of what parents and teachers are dealing with right now. I am curious the generation of your teachers/admin at the private school. Were they born before 1960, making them Boomers? Often Boomers have the most trouble understanding the attitude of Gen X'ers (born 1961-1981).

      We had similar incidents at our school a few years back. There were several parents (all Gen X'ers) complaining vigorously about the oversight during recess and in after-care at the school. The staff (many of them Gen X'ers) reacted by doing just what you suggested: setting up a perimeter and keeping the teachers spread out to watch the kids.

      On the other side, I have consistently been surprised by the level of protection that my Gen X peers feel about their children. We live in an incredibly safe society for children of middle-class and up – the leading cause of death is car accidents for anyone under 35 and yet we still drive all over the place. But when it comes to the things we feel we can control (such as how teachers treat our children) many Gen X'ers are total pit bulls. Although sounding the alarm when there are serious problems can be admirable, when there are 30 parents in a class all concerned solely with their own child's welfare, it is a recipe for social chaos. I think this is where the Gen X parent can get out of hand.

      If you are dealing with Baby Boomers on the staff I would suggest you back off from your aggressive stance. Instead take the tact that you want to help improve the school overall, and that you really believe in the institution and the education that your son is getting. Tell them that you want to improve the safety and experience for all the kids rather than just your son. Boomers react better to this approach.

      If instead you are dealing with mainly X'ers, then point out the risks they are taking by not creating a safe environment for the children. Ask them to tell you exactly who is accountable for the situation, and address that person directly. Don't bother threatening about pulling your child from the school – they hear that too often from parents already and it is implied anyway. Ask them for a concrete plan to address the situation and tell them you will work directly with them (again, dealing solely with the person who is accountable).

      Schools are starting to become accustomed to parents coming out of nowhere with complaints and going in with guns blazing. It's not constructive for anyone involved and often ends badly. By understanding the generational dynamics you can get what you want for your kid(s) and make the school a better place at the same time.

  3. This is such great insight! Yes, the main teacher is a boomer. Though it will be very tough at first for this red-hot Irish girl to take a kum-ba-ya approach, I see where it will get me the results I want.

    Thanks so much! I love this website!

    1. @Hil*S Be sure to let me know how it goes. Remember that you don't have to sacrifice your needs for the greater good: speaking in a language the teacher can understand is in your best interest as well. This is particularly true if the teachers at the school have a lot of Gen X'ers to deal with. The reaction may be, \”Finally a parent who understands what we are trying to do!\”. And that means it is more likely you will get what you want.

  4. Born in 1980 I am at the tail end of Gen X. My parents are early GenXers. I dont know if this has anything to do with my views on parenting or not. I was definatly a latch key kid raised on TV and left with very little guidance or direction from my parents.Due to that I absouloutly see and value the importance of being “around” for my kids. I chose a career that would allow me to be home with them as much as possible. I also feel strongly that childern need to have some kind of structured after school activity. How ever I do not hold the same parenting values as my fellow gen xers. I place tremendouus value on teaching my kids accountability and personal responsibility. I set expectations for them not their teachers. I also try to help them understand life is not always puppy dogs and kittens. They will have their feelings hurt they will experiance disappointments and they will not always be the best or strongest or fastest. It may seem harsh to some but I see no value in over parenting or over protecting children. All that results from this is a future group of young adults that can not do for them selves or handel the realities of real life.

    I do see these parents at our elemerty school however, and they do cause chaos. They think their children and the needs of their children are far more important than that of the others. Thankfully our principal is a well rounded resonable man. He will not tolerate nonsense at our school. I see this type of parenting among the older Gen Xers and it seems to me that the ones closer to my age (30) have values more similar to mine. I would say I run middle ground on most things. I do not over protect my children and at the same time I do not throw them to the wolves to be raised either.

    I would like to say that often times I feel frustrated and angry about the parenting techniques that have been forced down my throat since the birth of my first born in 98. First it was “Oh you should have a baby sling and carry her 24 7 so you can bond” and then it was “only velcro shoes at pre school cause they will trip and get hurt” and then it was positive reinforcement instead of punishment. My daughter is now 11. The current issue I deal with is how she should have the latest and greatest every thing. Also according to many other parent she should be attending a different after school activty every night and weekends too. Its hard for me as young parent to be assertive and confidant with my decisions of how my kids should be raised when I am surrounded by people who honestly think giving their kids every thing they want and filling their little heads with self absorbed consided self inflated ideals is acttualy doing them some good.

    The children of these people have no ownership in their actions. They are often times mean and hurtfull to any child they feel might steel the spot light. They are selfish and have a sense of entittlement. Yes as young as 3rd grade.

    So anyway, ha ha ha. sorry for the ranting. Felt Good tho gotta say. Im wondering if their are any other youner Gen Xs out their facing the same parenting delimas?

    1. @80sBornXer – I can definitely see your perspective. And like most people born on the cusp of a generation (a characteristic you share with your parents) you seem to be somehow separate from your \”peers\”. And I agree on all that stuff we heard from everyone (mainly Boomers) about how we should parent our children to make the perfect. I would also be curious to hear from other young/cusp Gen X parents.

  5. @80sBornXer – "Born in 1980 I am at the tail end of Gen X. My parents are early GenXers"

    Your parents had you when they were in High School?

  6. As a student in the Waldorf high school I have seen a group of parents, starting in about the fifth grade and going up, who are always at the school, it seems like they are there making sure that everything goes the right way. I know that in the last few years, the high school students have had a high criticism for their teachers and the administration, this may be because we have witnessed the actions of the parents, or maybe it is a new trend in consciousness.

    1. @Rachel – Hmmm… that is interesting, whether the behavior of the parents (criticizing the school) is now affecting the high school student's behaviors. Perhaps that open criticism that the parents delivered \”gave permission\” for students to speak up.

  7. As a teacher an member of Generation X I can appreciate both sides of this perspective. I have two boys, one 6 and the other 8. I try not to over burden their teachers, but I do solicit their input and involvement with respect to issues involving my sons academic and social well being. Yes, it’s true, I’ve found myself becoming very over protective whenever I see red flags. I often contact the teacher and if necessary the aging baby boomer principal. The teachers seem to be all Generation Y, and to my delight they are well educated and very dedicated. My wife and I always make it a priority to praise their effort Latino style, whether it be a gift or offering their teacher a bowl of Latino rice with beans. Both my immigrant born wife and I believe its important to praise and retain some of these excellent Generation Y teachers. We do recognize the stress we put on them, but by the same token support them and trust their ability. At my current job ( 15 years now), I teach a poor low income Latino population which places very limited stress or accountability on us. The parents I deal are humble and generally poor. Their children are faced with the monumental task of learning English and adapting to an environment that expects them to assimilate. Otherwise, they face the possibility of dropping out, thus giving in to the pressure of getting a job and contributing to the family income. As educators we mainly deal with a tremendous amount of pressure from the state and the administration. We are expected to motivate, challenge, and prepare disadvantaged students to succeed at passing state tests and to be able to answer advanced critical thinking questions. If we fail we are often labeled as ineffective teachers. Our evaluations reflect new standards which were written without any input from the teachers or the parents. In this environment good teachers seem to be ignored.As a bystander, it’s heartbreaking to witness some fine young teachers leave the profession. The administration is either powerless or unwilling to hold on to them. In my 15 years I’ve seen a very high attrition rate. In my department alone I’ve witnessed at least 10 teachers leave the profession. In my situation parental involvement is very limited unless a students gets suspended, bullied, or perhaps fails a class which he or she needs to graduate. The above article is very informative and a good reference for how many Generation X er’s perceive the world. Excellent article!

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