I am not engaged.

It is 3:10 on a Friday (well, it was when I started drafting this post). The coffee buzz is gone. I’m starving, I’m squirrely, and I am most certainly not engaged.

I’m not whooping and hollering and raising my hand. I’m not running around playing four corners with a big ole smile on my face. I’m not curiously seeking answers to well-posed questions.

My boss is not in charge of keeping me entertained. It is not his responsibility to make sure that every hour of every workday we’re all enthralled and actively participating in inquiry. It is absolutely not his job to make sure that–even now, when I have 17 minutes left of work on a Friday–Evyan is ENGAGED.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my job. I am genuinely happy to do what I do (just about) every day. I have all of the tools I need–and more–have a glorious amount of autonomy and the support to make meaningful things happen. I work for a school district that’s just big enough to hold weight and just small enough where it’s kinda like Cheers.

But, unless you’re–say–Kim Kardashian and you get to go shopping on an unlimited budget for a living, there are plenty of times when work isn’t engaging. So why, then, are we putting so much emphasis on engagement in the classroom? If the aim is to prepare kids to be “college and career ready,” shouldn’t we teach them–at least part of the time–how to power through stuff that (generally) isn’t really all that fun or interesting? Are we doing society a great disservice by discouraging traditionally un-engaging things like old-school lecturing and note-taking? Will our kids be able to sit quietly at two-hour meeting without falling asleep or screaming obscenities because they’re bored and don’t know how to handle it?

I’m not arguing that we should purposely torture students in order for them to be stand-up, well-behaved citizens. Well, not entirely. I’m arguing that we seem to be leaning towards a world in which teachers are expected to provide students with a learning environment that is bell-to-bell active and in which students should always be happy participants. It’s just not realistic, and–I’d say–it probably isn’t a good idea.

This, my first post, may make me one of the most unpopular people on the internet–especially if Charlotte Danielson reads this (which–I mean–I’m sure she’ll do–right?!). I encourage you to argue with me. And I look forward to arguing back.

 

 

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4 comments

  1. mradammetzger · October 28, 2014

    Engagement is a difficult issue, you will never get every student in school to be fully engaged in every activity you do. Sometimes lecture is necessary, introducing topics students have no background knowledge of, and part of the process. The push is to include more engaging activities throughout your curriculum and eliminate the constant lecturing day in and day out.
    Because you asked for arguments I will try to start one!
    One thing to remember is that these are kids, not adults. Are we being fair if we try to hold them accountable to adult level responsibilities? One difference between work and school is the paycheck, we know students earn better paychecks because of their education but a 15 year old isn’t thinking about his/her job in 5-10 years. You are willing to soldier through things because there are monetary rewards in the near future for doing so. People who are going to be successful in life have to learn to adapt, if they are going to be successful they will adapt to their work environment.

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    • evucation · October 28, 2014

      I see your point, but isn’t a diploma a reward? Isn’t a grade in that class some sort of “paycheck?” I mean, it was for me back in the day; THAT’S what I worked for–for a grade, to graduate. I know I probably had a crazy amount of intrinsic motivation that kids these days don’t have, but why don’t they have that?

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      • mradammetzger · October 28, 2014

        Grades and graduation mean a lot to many students, nothing means the same to all of them. Grades today seem to mean more than learning, a whole different issue, and we would hope learning would mean more. Our goal as educators should be to offer an environment that plays to students interests in a way that makes them want to learn as much as possible, it is a daunting task. Some of the things we need to realize are; We are not teaching ourselves, we were probably much more motivated than the average student and we can’t expect students to respond the way we would. This is just irrational wishing on our part. Also, just because it was like this in the past it doesn’t mean it was right or should be continued. Students today are much different than we, well at least me, were. As society changes and students change with it we also have to adapt our teaching habits and school environment.
        If you find the answer to why students today, or basically ever, don’t have as much intrinsic motivation let me know. We can make a fortune selling that info!

        Like

      • evucation · October 28, 2014

        I’m sure there’s an app for that…Kidding.
        I agree–just because something WAS one way doesn’t mean it should stay that way forever. I guess my question stems from how unrealistic it is to work towards 100% engagement–and if that’s even necessary in order to classify the classroom (or teacher) as Examplary–or whatever the rubric calls it.

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