A few nights ago I was sitting at the dining room table before dinner catching up on some work while the kids played nearby. My five-year-old asked if he could watch me work. I said sure, and when he sat down I facetiously told him to run a cross tabulation of data comparing students’ ages upon entering kindergarten and their reading proficiency across multiple factors. I slid my course folder over to him and opened to the data page. Without a moment of hesitation he looked up at me with a smile and said, “Ok…” followed by a sincere, “…and how do you spell that?”
Not only was it one of the funniest moments of my recent life, but also it was really cool! The kid was going to attempt it. He could have been spinning around in the other room with his brother or relentlessly singing the Frozen theme song over and over with his sister, but he wanted to be working with me. It didn’t matter what the work entailed. He was going to give it a go!
The fact is, when you take the time to build trusting and meaningful relationships with the children that you serve they get excited about working, learning, and spending time with you. As a parent and an educational leader this is just about the most important reality in my life. It helps me do what I’m I charged with doing…providing safe and plentiful opportunities for learning and growth.
It’s our job to engage students in learning, but each student has his/her own engagement threshold. Each student is unique. We can’t expect the students in our classrooms to uniformly respond to instruction in like ways. I would argue that the highest quality instructional design accounts for diversity of thought and sprit as much as it accounts for diversity of readiness and ability. When we genuinely get to know our students and give them appropriate inroads to learning about us, we build the kind of relationships that complement our instruction in important ways. A car might have every working piece needed to drive from point “A” to point “B,” but without fuel, it ain’t gonna happen.
Genuine, positive, compassionate, patient, and supportive relationships are the fuel that propels engaged learning. Kids want to learn, they want to explore, and they even want to work. More than anything else however, they want to know that we care about them, that we enjoy spending out time with them, and that we are unmistakably interested in what they have to say and that they achieve incredible things!
How do you promote engaged learning in your classroom/school? In what ways to do you show each student in your community that you genuinely care?
Live. Learn. Lead.
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.