Our senior high school students, born and bred in the digital age, are tech savvy, embrace diversity and inclusion, adapt quickly to change and tend to have an entrepreneurial spirit.
They are part of Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012, also known as iGen, Digital Natives or Zoomers, a nod to the infamous post-war Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964). I recently heard them referred to as “Gen Easy” as though everything has been gifted to them.
But I’m bothered by the Gen Easy label. It’s simply not true.
Achieving great things is never easy. It takes dedication, hard work and perseverance to succeed.
I’d like to challenge the thinking behind the Gen Easy tag.
This generation, far from enjoying a free ride, often struggles with their place at the front line of change.
A quick ChatGPT audit of headlines from around the globe turns up some disturbing material. From Forbes magazine: Why Generation Z is the Most Fragile Generation Yet; The New York Times: Are Gen Zers Really Doomed to be Less Happy Than Their Parents?; Psychology Today: The Dark Side of Social Media and Its Impact on Gen Z; Harvard Medical School: Generation Z: Anxiety on the Rise; and Time: Why Generation Z is less prepared for Adulthood than Previous Generations.
Easy? I’m not so sure.
We know the digital age and technology has created untold benefits. But at schools, we’re acutely aware of the downside of social media, which, despite the benefits of instant connection with friends and sporting clubs, can enable less attractive behaviours including cyberbullying and anxiety about fitting in or body image.
There’s certainly evidence to suggest that the desire to be picture perfect is compounding mental health challenges and other performance pressures experienced by Gen Z. This generation, too, is concerned about the world around them, particularly the impact of climate change and has a strong sense of social justice.
Theirs is a diverse and inclusive generation committed to playing a role in positive social change. It’s a generation that seeks genuine social connection.
We endeavour to empower this generation of students to approach the challenges they face — uncertainty, climate change, war, constant change — with courage and kindness, to commit to giving their best effort and to using setbacks for learning, to reset, try again, think critically and problem solve.
Our school, like many others, likes to celebrate the achievements of students who we believe have exceeded expectations and set a strong foundation for their future endeavours. The young people we celebrate at our Trailblazers assembly each year have demonstrated they are not just proficient at using technology but in applying it and their best effort to their studies.
Our high achieving students in the Class of 2022 achieved some standout results. More importantly most of the Class of 2022 achieved the goals they set for themselves for their post-school journey. That effort, not just technology, has allowed them to pursue the future pathways of their choosing.
I am proud of these efforts. This cohort has demonstrated, not just the be-brave-not-perfect philosophy of our school but that they have the tenacity, resilience and agility to pursue their chosen careers and make a contribution to our community.
We want to encourage this generation to not only embrace change and digital savvy but to be daring and resilient enough not to fear mistakes but to keep on devising work arounds until they can create innovative solutions. We see evidence daily that this cohort demonstrates this bravery and incredible flexibility.
Let’s call them Gen Agile. They are courageously blazing a trail in uncertain times and there’s nothing easy about that.