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A Millennial Lecturer in a GEN-Z Class – Episode 8

A millennial lecturer shares his over a decade experience in the academia teaching and supervising most GEN-Z. Welcome on the 10-episode series recollection.
Macaulay, Babajide Milton Ph.D., EMBA
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Welcome to the 10-episode series on my shocking experience as a millennial lecturer teaching Gen-Z students in a Federal University in Nigeria in the last 12 years. It’s a collection of my classroom interactions with a generation of quick-witted, internet-savvy young adults who are “too bold” for their own good. Read episode 7 here.

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In the last 7 years, I have noticed how emotionally fragile Gen-Zs are. They are so sensitive to the point that every statement said to them impacts their psychological health. If the statement is positive, it serves as the positive validation they need to keep going. If the statement is negative, it could make them lose their self-esteem.

Understanding how emotionally fragile these new generation of students are, is important to help lecturers pay keen attention to the type of words they choose, especially when scolding or criticising them. Statements like why are you so useless; You will never make it in life; Your parents did a bad job raising you; You must be mad! Very simple questions, you couldn’t attempt, you are a failure! — Should be avoided at all cost!

I understand that 15-20 years ago, similar statements were made to Millennial students who mostly didn’t take them to heart. They went on to succeed against all odds.

However, the situation is different today.

We now have students who will react negatively to harsh words said to them. They will not look past them. They will ruminate on the words and live them daily.

Many of them will believe in those words and think they are indeed useless. This will ultimately lead to depression. Little wonder why depression and suicidal thoughts are now becoming rampart amongst our youths today.

From my investigation, “comparisons” are the most devastating type of comments that could ever be said to Gen-Zs.

It damages them quicker than insults or abusive statements. For example, if a lecturer says in a classroom, “Taiwo, I don’t know why you seem to be so slow in comprehension. Look at your mate, Majid. He just understood it instantly. Why then is your IQ so low?”

This kind of comparison where Taiwo is made to look like an idiot with poor cognitive skills unlike Majid who is smarter and sharper, will demoralize Taiwo in many ways compared to just calling Taiwo an idiot.

In fact, I recently met a student who told me he refused to go home during the semester break because he is not in good terms with his parents.

I asked him what his parents did to him and he said, “they constantly compare me with my friends. Even when I eventually led my class in a particular course, and I thought it would make them happy, they still asked me why I had 88% in the course and not 100%. They don’t love me. I am sure they regret having me as a child.”

The worst part of his statements was when he admitted to having suicidal thoughts and actually tried to kill himself three unsuccessful times.

I asked him why he thought of ending it. He said to me: I saw no reason to stay alive when those I love don’t value me. I wanted to end my life to end the frustration I always cause them because I am alive.

This was really deep, so I spent more than an hour in a quick counseling session to ensure that his mindset is renewed. I also asked for his permission to be his accountability partner and he agreed.

This boy is one out of many on campus who are hiding various levels of sadness and depression. Some of those negative feelings are derived from comments made by people in authority e.g. parents, guardians, lecturers, etc.

As lecturers, we must be sensitive to the current emotional needs of our students. We must correct in love, criticize constructively, embrace after scolding, and remember that our sole responsibility is to ensure that our students succeed.

As for unruly students, we must learn new ways of managing recalcitrant. Understanding that words get to them means that we could tactically use words to repair their character rather than damage their egos.

I know this is easier written than practised, but with the right commitment for change, improvements will be seen.

I hope you enjoyed Episode 8?

Watch out for Episode 9.

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