A few months ago, I found myself walking down the hallway with a colleague. My feet noticeably drug along the floor as if I were returning to class from recess. We were pondering the question as to how do we make students care? This is undoubtedly the million dollar question. My thought process continued as my stride slowed and my mind wandered. There are millions of highly motivated educators out there who are facing these same issues. One of us must have figured it out by now!
The battery on my iPad was extinguished that evening as I feverishly looked for the answer and, in the process, opened up a whole new world. Sir Ken Robinson sat with me for a awhile, as did Rita Pierson. Dave Burgess and Michael Materra pulled up seats to talk with me. There were and are people, driven educators, who have found the answer: engagement. To quote a wise woman, "Kids don't learn from people they don't like" - Rita Pierson.
Engagement is a multifaceted solution. It is not a box that can be handed to a teacher with a wish of good luck! Engagement is an attitude and an appreciation for the students who have been entrusted to you. Engagement is an experience and a feeling. It is providing a missing piece to a student who does not even realize they have a missing piece. Sounds like a very tall order. To do it correctly takes time, commitment, daily involvement, and an understanding that a child is more than a test score.
Take a few minutes to look around your school. Observe how students interact with other people. The reactions will span the spectrum. Have you ever seen an animal who cowers because they are scared of what is coming? It is heartbreaking to see a student do that at school. Watch for students who literally light up as if a switch were turned on when they see someone. Mentally map behaviors with engagement. My guess is that students who feel cared for and loved are in turn, highly engaged in those classrooms. They feel as if they are worth something and do not want to disappoint the person who cares for them. If a student lacks that sense of worth they really have no farther to go. Why be engaged? What is the benefit?
Students no longer come to school to simply learn. We are like the big box stores (Costco and Sam's) that offer everything we possibly can from health care to meals to support and finally education. A one stop shop for building a well rounded citizen that functions successfully in our ever changing society.