Engagement

For 20 years now….dare I admit that length of time?  …I have had highs and lows in the education sector.  There is nothing more enjoyable and rewarding than witnessing students learning something they want to learn.  I have many examples over the years, but alas I also have many examples of times when kids were not learning and did not learn, or at least not to their potential….it is the most single frustrating part of the job.  A good example, is I am heading to Europe with some kids in March, and one of our stops is the magnificent and opulent Chateau de Versailles (http://en.chateauversailles.fr/homepage).  I was speaking with a student the other day, and I showed her a photo of the Hall of Mirrors.  As dazzling as it is from many perspectives, my personal interest is historical.  I am fascinated by The treaty of Versailles which ended the Great War and the declaration of the German Empire after the Franco-Prussian War.  So I asked the student, “do you remember grade 10 history” and she replied “yes”.  I asked her what treaty ended the Great War, and she had half the word out, and she realized that the Treaty of Versailles, was the same Versailles were were going to.  A connection was made!  It is just a small example, but it demonstrates that engagement makes all the difference.  But, here we go…how do we engage all the kids all the time?  What role do they play in engagement?  How do we engage as adults?  Are we really all engaged in stuff we do not like?  I would argue the answer is “no”…your hobbies are your interests…your courses in University were tailored to your interests.  We are all similarly skilled in basic skills–communication, analysis, thinking, inquiry, etc, whether or not we have a B.Sc, or a B.A in history….but we did it in different paths.  It makes me wonder, how do we reconcile this obvious truth, with the reality of state mandated curricula, provincial assessments and rigid structure in school systems?  Where does technology come in?  How can we not have a structured, rigid system that demands billions from taxpayers without accountability?  So many questions, so few answers, but….as it all started, how do we inspire kids to want to learn?  I am tempted to fall prey to the belief that we are a pampered, first world nation that is not hungry enough, but I refuse to believe that three generations of a comfortable life has extinguished thousands and thousands of years of evolutionary curiosity, curiosity which I think has greatly contributed to our advancement as a species.  However, I ramble on, and my desire to contribute instead of always consuming, perhaps has led to a far too long post!  My favourite editor at home, would have her red pen out!

David

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2 thoughts on “Engagement

  1. I think it’s worth considering how we learn as adults. Not how we were taught, and not just “we teachers”, but all adult learners.

    If you want to learn something new, what do you do? Do you take a course? Seek out an expert? Do some research? Try and see what happens?

    I think the answer differs for each person and for each type of learning. I’m learning to play guitar. I (so far) haven’t accessed any “formal education” because I’m enjoying the self-directed learning and I’m happy with the progress I’ve made in this way. I don’t have any deadlines or exams or other pressures to force me to learn at some other pace. And I enjoy it a lot. If I was learning judo, I think I would have a different approach.

    So maybe a lack of engagement comes partly from having the wrong pressures on students, or forcing a learning mode that doesn’t fit the task or the student.

    But I *want* to learn to play guitar. I’m not being forced to learn it. I see the value, I enjoy the learning and the result. How do we inspire students to learn things they don’t already appreciate?

    No firm answers; only questions. Thanks for your post!

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