Reaching the ‘iY’ generation

Published 9:34 am Friday, June 15, 2012

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“My office is close to your school,” said Bryan Belknap after his screenwriting session at the Southern Christian Writers’ Conference. “I’d be happy to come and speak to your creative writing students.”

Belknap’s fresh message about writing for the screen is inspiring. After sitting through his session scribbling notes quickly, I’m sure the kids need an introduction to screenwriting from this expert. If he opens the unit, and I study my notes and develop lesson plans rich with video clips and websites this summer, screenwriting will add an intriguing dimension to this fall’s creative writing class.

Rising seniors Molly Bogan and Justin Brooks represented PHS well as members of a panel of Shelby County Schools’ students who gave tips to teachers on their generation. (contributed)

When summer comes, attending conferences and workshops helps me keep my instruction cutting-edge. After attending the Shelby County School System’s Continuous School Improvement workshop last week, effectively engaging and teaching what our speaker, Dr. Tim Elmore, calls the iY generation has energized my 2012 summer search.

Elmore’s iY label indicates that our current generation of students has grown up with—and on—the Internet.

As Elmore points out, “The iY generation is EPIC.” The letters in EPIC indicate that iY students need experiences, participation, image-rich instruction and connection with others.

Elmore is describing changes that have transformed classrooms. Screens replace blackboards, keyboards replace chalk, stories lead to short video clips and connection is instant. Students I once wondered about during the summer are now kids I’m emailing or texting about summer reading and summer conferences.

Students are products of their culture. Their instruction has to keep pace with their curiosity. My job is to keep that instruction current, fast-paced and relevant. So far, I’ve found lots of great new video clips to spark conversation and volunteer speakers on civil rights, photography, children’s books, screenwriting, writing for magazines and Internet publishing opportunities for teens.

A student panel at our Shelby County School’s workshop was also inspiring. One student said to our group of teachers, “Don’t be discouraged if we don’t understand the first time; just try something new.”

Professional Development Supervisor Jenni Goolsby said, “I’ll never forget that student’s wonderful encouragement.”

Teachers are listening, teachers are learning and teachers are encouraged.


Connie Nolen can be reached by email at