How to Relate to Younger Students

Older people who return to school may be there for a variety of reasons, but one concern many have is relating to younger students who have grown up in a much different world than their older counterparts.

Younger students are likely to be much more knowledgeable about technology. Their social habits and interests are different than the older student. They may seem to speak a different language when interacting with each other.

But both older and younger students also have common interests. Both are in school to reach a goal, whether that is training for a career or career change, or broadening their horizons for other reasons. Each group can learn from the other, reaping the benefit of perspective and knowledge each group possesses. By following a few guidelines, relating to younger students can be made easier.

First, show respect for your younger counterparts. While the older student may have more life experience, the younger student is more knowledgeable about living in their generation. Listen to them and respect their viewpoint and contribution.

Don’t be judgemental. While younger students may dress or speak differently, or like a different kind of music, setting aside judgements will allow you to find common ground. You might find that the younger student who dresses or speaks differently is quick to understand the concepts being presented in class and has much to contribute to your understanding of the subject. And when conversation gets around to a subject other than class, it’s just possible there is some music you both like.

Treat younger students as your equal. Many times, younger students expect older students to treat them as if they were one of their children. You aren’t one of their parents, so it isn’t appropriate to give unsolicited advice. Both generations are in school to learn, and both have valuable insight for the other age group. Stick to normal conversation and don’t be condescending.

When the opportunity presents itself, compliment your younger counterpart on a point well made, or encourage elaboration of a comment by asking questions. When test time approaches, ask a younger student or students to join their older classmates in a study group.

Once younger students realize an older student has respect for their knowledge and viewpoint, the generational lines will begin to disappear. When the younger person does not sense judgment or a condescending attitude from the older person, it is easier for both to relate to each other just as students trying to reach a common goal: learning the subject at hand.