Exploring millennial-style teaching

Teachers that connect with their students on a generational level approach the classroom from a newer and unique perspective

Research conducted by the National Association for Gifted Children has shown that the use of analogies can be a very helpful tool in relaying information from teachers to students. It creates a bridge between what they already know and what they are attempting to learn. Teachers who have the ability to relate to their students in terms of similar interests can reach their students on a different level.

Oak Park alums and millennial faculty members have direct insight into the experiences that students are going through right now and so are able to provide advice and tips more relevant to current students’ experiences. 

“I know what it’s like to be a student at Oak Park High School, I had lots of the same assignments, most of the same teachers, and I survived this place and so I can help you guys survive as well,” Hall said.

The traditional teacher is seen as more of a mentor and an authority figure whose goal is to teach about a given subject; however, younger teachers can bring a new perspective and fresh approach to their classrooms.

“My ability to relate to students is just that much more natural and I think it also increases my credibility when talking about college,” English II and IV teacher Jessica Wall said.

The emphasis on college and academic achievements is a large part of the high school student’s experience, so having a teacher who can relate to students’ struggles in the application process can be especially helpful. In fact, because the four-year college route is so normalized at the school, teachers fresh out of the process may wish to normalize other pathways for success.

“Kids put a lot of pressure on themselves and their parents put a lot of pressure on them to succeed but ultimately there are a lot of different paths to be successful in this world,” AP Government teacher Jackson Hall said.

Oak Park is often seen as an academically competitive school, ranked in the national top 500 schools and 67th in the state, which can cause the students to think that the only way to achieve success is by getting excellent grades. This competitive school environment can cause the students to face a lot of stress during their high school career. Educators like Hall are more aware of the stress students are facing as not only an alum of Oak Park High School, but also as someone who recently endured the college application process.

“Nobody’s going to ask you about your high school GPA when you’re 30, nobody’s going to ask you about your SAT score when you’re 30, nobody’s going to care about how prestigious the college you went to is when you’re 30. Again, I think life is a lot more than that,” Hall said.

These teachers also work to encourage their students to engage in discussions in order to form their own opinions on ideas such as racial issues, gender gap issues, environmentalism and more. They create forums for students to share their voices by bringing these matters into their classrooms in an unbiased manner.

“That makes for less disconnect in the conversations I’m having with students,” Wall said.

Additionally, students tend to have stronger connections with the teachers they are closely related to age-wise, according to senior Shreya Maddhali. 

“I enjoy having younger teachers because it makes class more relatable and interesting,” Maddhali said. “They know how to utilize different teaching approaches to make class more receptive for students.”