Imagine being 8–10 years old and suddenly finding out one of your parents or caregivers lost their job, seeing them stressed and crying, being told they can’t afford to do things you always did, having to move because your family can’t afford to live there anymore. Imagine having your parents or caregivers take on extra jobs to make ends meet, leaving little time for attention to you. Imagine this going on for several years. Welcome to the reality of the years from 2007–2009: the longest recession since World War II.

Who grew up in those years? Generation Z! . . . your new teachers!

If you want to lead people well, think back to their formative years to find out what world events shaped their thinking and emotional makeup.

Now not everyone had a bad experience back then. If your parents or caregivers were teachers, you probably weren’t affected much, as teachers weren’t being laid off. On the other hand, if they were stockbrokers or bankers, look out! And if they were hourly-wage earners, they may have lost their jobs. I watched the local coffee shop baristas shift from being high school students to middle-aged workers during that time. Think about it: Those people losing their jobs seemed like a win for a local coffee shop over a high school student. High school students were having a terrible time finding work during the recession. So I don’t want to generalize this to everyone, but let’s look at 7 characteristics of Gen Z to see how best to lead them, given their earlier life experiences:

They’re money-driven and ambitious — Well, given their early years in a recession, do you blame them for prioritizing financial security? They lean toward wanting to save money, but they don’t know the best ways to do so. They want to learn from others, rather than through making mistakes, so build a Culture of Professional Learning! They like support, so provide them with it! And provide them with opportunities to engage in projects that will feed their ambitious nature and advance their careers!

They love to travel — That bodes well for the teaching profession with summers off and week-long breaks throughout the year. Imagine the place-based tasks that could be designed to teach content through the exploration of places around the world. Capitalize on that passion! Are you running a virtual program? Does it really matter where the teacher is in the world as long as they’re performing their job duties?

They’re prone to anxiety — Again, think back to their childhood. The educational world right now is fraught with stress. You cannot take a “the sky is falling” approach to the world of education; every challenge is an opportunity to invent a new solution. Remember that Thomas Edison said he didn’t fail; he learned 10,000 ways it wouldn’t work. Be mindful of stressful situations, such as last-minute changes or undefined details. Clarify! Lead to reduce uncertainty and stress!

They’re known to set boundaries — Gen Z is generally protective of work-life boundaries, so help them reduce the blur between the two. Help them be as productive as possible during work time so that they don’t need the rest of their time to prepare for providing high-quality instruction to their students. Don’t email and text them in the evening and on weekends. Create clear expectations and boundaries and stick to them!

They’re avid gamers — Social interaction over a game is a great way to relax! You know, gaming increases executive function — not a bad idea to include gaming in the classroom. I always had a chess game going in my own classroom, and I think it led to the increase in my students’ test scores. And maybe a breakout room could be a fun PD-day activity, especially if teachers map the skills they need to succeed to executive function skills.

They prefer to think about the past rather than the future — We’re talking about the ’90s here — a time just before they were born. Again, in the recession, can you just hear their parents and caregivers talking about the better days of yore? (Again, we’re talking about the ’90s here.) But it does speak to their desire for calmness and consistency. Time for a retro faculty meeting!

They use social media as a place for inspiration — Gen Z is looking to be inspired and led! And they’re not as inclined to “Google it” as they are to head to social media. Consider what social media platforms your teachers hang out on and jump on. You’ve got a captive social media audience; inspire them! Post deliberately! They’re also the first generation to grow up in a world with the internet available to them from birth, so using AI should be a slam-dunk! However, a third of Gen Z is hesitant about it, so assume nothing!

Your new teachers can be powerhouses in the teaching-learning game . . . I mean, they think like gamers, who are highly strategic and competitive, seeking to win! And they’re ambitious! But remember their early years . . . they seek consistency, calmness, and inspiration. They need to be deliberately and meaningfully supported.

So don’t take your new teachers for granted! If they don’t feel safe, supported, and inspired, they’ll find another job, or, worse yet, another career.

IDE Corp. provides online and in-person support for new teachers. Check out our Virtual Learning Communities at and our consulting services at