There is a curious phenomenon taking place in California schools. Well, there are MANY curious phenomena, but this post is about just one of them: the generation gap between Superintendents and the Principals they oversee.
Until this decade, most work places were populated by “parent” generations, meaning that for the most part, supervisors were supervising the generation of their own children. For example, Baby Boomers were overseeing the work of Generation X. However, due to many factors, we are undergoing a strange shift; many of those in top level management are supervising middle managers from a “grandparent” generation.
Focusing on school districts, the two factors that have led to these circumstances are: 1) an increase in age of Superintendents 2) a decrease in the age of newly hired principals So, Superintendents are (as a group) getting older, and Principals are (as a group) getting younger. If only that meant, by the way, that Principals woke up every morning younger than the previous day. You get what I mean, though, right?!
Why does this matter? The support needs for the millennial generation differ from preceding generations in terms of the need for autonomy, trust, and flexibility, and should be recognized by Superintendents wishing to support their newest and youngest leaders (Horn, 2001). Furthermore, emerging instructional technology trends have transitioned from a fringe movement in a limited number of districts to a widely implemented set of classroom tools independent of district size, demographics, or location (Schrum & Levin, 2009). Millennial principals enter the job ready to make these tools and practices a part of the instructional practice at their school.
Principals have different needs than previous generations, so Superintendents, in order to successfully support their young leaders, must adjust their supportive practices. This being the case, what can Superintendents do in order to properly support their millennial principals?
Here is a short list to consider:
1) Set clear goals and provide “defined autonomy” for principals to achieve those gals
2) Make sure that other district administrators are properly supporting the needs of principals
3) Provide mentors for new principals
4) Be accessible
5) Have high expectations
Some of the above practices are no brainers, I know. Nonetheless, leaders have to recognize, and bring to the forefront, these proven practices, so that the youngest school leaders are given the chance to thrive in their leadership roles.