This article shares experiences of 6 lecturers. It's a heartfelt and provocative insight into the challenges of being a High Education academic as well as the intricacies of teaching new generations with their needs, demands, and expectations.
Rather than paraphrase here, take a mo to read the first story. I'm sure you'll be as hooked as I was and want to read the other 5.
From Rachel Moss, History Lecturer, Uni of Northampton.
"A lot of the press attention on Generation Z and millennial mental health has focused on the impact of social media and its encouragement of negative body image and relentless self-scrutiny, but many of our concerns are more practical. My generation was the first in the UK to pay tuition fees, while my students have seen their fees hit £9,250 a year. I am still paying back my undergraduate maintenance loan nearly a decade post-PhD, but, with the cost of student accommodation having risen by 23 per cent in the past six years, it is likely to take my students much longer still to repay their mounting debts. Especially since, while official unemployment statistics show a record low, a rise in zero-hour contracts and gig work, as well as the increased cost of living, mean that 4 million working Britons live in poverty.
"Like many other millennial academics, I have experienced the sharp end of these bleak statistics, having been among the 53 per cent of academics in the UK on fixed-term contracts. Many of us have been guiding students towards graduation and life beyond university while feverishly job-searching ourselves. While the media regularly publish pieces lambasting students for poor attendance or sneering at them for requesting trigger warnings, I understand where zeds are coming from.
Life is stressful, and in striving to make my classroom a safe space for my students, focused on their needs rather than on my ego, I am not attempting to shield them from uncomfortable truths, or even to set aside their very understandable worries. Instead, I hope to equip them to deal with their problems outside class as well as inside it.
A good example is the research and employability skills module that I will be teaching this autumn. Is it as much fun to teach as my Medieval World course? Probably not, but it aims to equip history students to leverage their skills – writing essays, giving presentations, teamwork – to both prepare for their dissertations and think about the job market. Of course, universities have careers services that provide a lot of this type of training, but integrating it into the degree programme helps students see why the academic work they are doing is directly relevant to their future careers.
Running courses like this alongside modules that emphasise the historical importance of minorities – women, LGBT people, BME communities, the working class – underlines for marginalised undergraduates not only that history was made by people like them, but also that they can make history, too – both as students and in their lives after university."
How do we teach students who are, as The Economist recently put it, “stressed, depressed and exam-obsessed”? Perhaps part of the solution lies in hiring more millennial academics, who may be up to two decades older than their students but who share many of the same anxieties.