ARE YOU ENGAGED?

imagesThis past week I contributed a sort of reprise on my “My I-Phone is Smarter Than Your Kid’s Teacher” post.  Still!

 It went up on Education Week’s “Leadertalk” site  and right away one reader commented that I had articulated the essential problem with teaching (today’s) spoiled rich kids: they need to be entertained.

The funny thing is is I never said anything about the I-Phone as a device for entertaining kids.  I described it as a powerful tool to engage them.  All of them.  Not just “spoiled, rich kids”.  But also kids still climbing out of America’s deep economic chasm, the technology gap, and the great divide.

jugglerjpegSo I wondered whether some educators are unable to distinguish between entertaining kids and engaging them.  Or, put another way, whether they think you have to entertain them to engage them.

By now you know we got our test scores back from last year and we weren’t happy with them.  We got record high gains from several grade levels and that was good.  Our 8th graders improved in every category and that was good.  Our 4th graders and 7th graders had strong results in writing and that was good.  But we also experienced a dramatic decline in critical areas and our English language learners didn’t make the improvement we had worked for.

So we didn’t move the needle.

But sometimes teams learn more when they lose a game than they do when they win.  If you are open to learning as an organization, losing can be transformational.  So El Milagro is twisting through another radical transformation. Precision. Alignment.  Urgency.  

Engagement.

When students are provided with rigorous instruction, transparent goals and objectives, a clear sense of purpose– and the tools to achieve their learning tasks– they become “engaged”.

I don’t know if we are going to be handing out I-Phones to expedite the engagement of our students. It isn’t really the point anyway.  What really matters is that we seize upon children’s imagination and their innate capacity for managing their own journey.  We should be models for that.  We are on that journey too.  

Anyway, you can’t entertain kids if you are not entertaining.  You can’t engage them if YOU aren’t engaged.

Are you engaged?

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3 Comments

Filed under charter schools, El Milagro, innovation and change, school reform, standardized testing, technology in schools

3 responses to “ARE YOU ENGAGED?

  1. Very interesting post. I’m a homeschool mom, and i’ve noticed on days when i’m excited about what we’re learning, the kids jump right in. But on days when i don’t feel well or had a bad night of sleep, the day drags on, because the kids sense that lack of engagement.

  2. Yes Laurie, and the same thing happens in my kindergarten to some extent. I would be mighty self centered to think that the class revolves around me and my moods but, and this is important, I can make the mundane seem exciting and interesting just by my positive attitude. This is most evident when I try to bring them all eagerly on board for new learning activities. The most positive attitude I can bring to the classroom is my confidence in them to do their best, my acceptance of failures as another step along the way, and by supporting them as they move on with more scaffolding.
    I am somewhat disconcerted by the focus on our performance on national and international assessments. Gone are the days when we simply needed people to spit back rote learning and do their job. Let my students be people who want to explore and question, who work easily and well with others both here and abroad, who dream big dreams and envision limitless possibilities, and most of all who love the promise of lifelong learning. I’m not looking for the #1 spot on anyone’s list.

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