I am a broken record, I know. Oh, wait, how many people even know what a record is? Sigh….I age myself.
It is always about engagement, in my mind. If you have engaged students, and you can instill even a touch of growth mindset in them, they will soar, most times with or without us.
However, not all of our students are engaged. We know that, and we live it everyday. The reasons are multi-fold, but it does not really matter what the reasons are. We only need to know them, so they can serve as a diagnosis for us and lead us in our efforts to change. Not easy. Quite difficult in some stages.
My daughter, who is engaged, at least in the game of earning marks to get into university, so she can get into a program she is interested in, within which she needs to be engaged, or she will falter, had a conversation with one of her friends the other day. A young man, grade 10. He is disengaged. Many reasons, however disengaged. He was quizzing her about how she gets good marks, and even more so, why she gets good marks. She told him about an experience she had, where she set a goal of a grade 11 average of over 85%. She worked at it and actually achieved it. Then, in conjunction with some learning she has been doing on her own with Growth Mindset, she set higher goals for grade 12, assuming that there was a correlation between working harder, staying engaged and results. It also does not hurt that she has recently discovered she is allergic to many foods and beverages, which sort of takes her out of the “party circuit”…so she has more time than she might have if she was participating in more diversified “social” activities. However, as usual, I digress.
So, she as I said, explained this to him. His answer was simple. Something along the lines of :”I could never do that”. Now, this young man is 12 years into his education experience, assuming he was in JK. Can we change that? Does he have to want to change it? Can we find a way to create an epiphany? I am relatively satisfied my own two children are engaged in learning. My eldest, in her last year of a Chem degree and Faculty of Ed on the horizon, will have to be an engaged learner if she wants to have a career in education, so she is in. My youngest, about to head to University in the fall, will have to find a new level of engaged when she arrives there.
But what about the bevy of kids we have who are not overly engaged? Not failing, and all going to succeed in getting a high school diploma, and many will go on to successful careers and university and college programs, but the potential could be so much more. As well, this is not just in Civics, or in grade 10 applied English. It is there entire approach. Even in Outdoor Ed and shop, they are less engaged than they could be. In gym class, fit athletes, who like sports, will often participate for 20-30 minutes, then expect a short break. Many old-timers like myself, are tempted to use the “L” word, but I think it is more than that. I think it is an entire approach to life, that somehow my generation of helicopter parenting and the social environment we have created in the Western world, has created this generation. They are just not too into anything. Some or many are, but I fear it is getting less.
So, do we even understand it? If we do not understand this generation, how can we possibly find solutions, to the problems we see? And, as a last thought, are we only labeling it a problem, because it does not meet with our expectations? Is it possible, that this generation, that I feel are even more disengaged, are simply different than us, and will create a brave new world that when I am really old, I will marvel at, and not understand, but have to admit, works?
Oh, BTW (my kids taught me that one) I thought for a while on finding a way to integrate Trump, Brexit and the shifting European political spectrum, but I could not. So I am just going to end with: A large portion of the upper management of the US State Department resigned today leaving a huge vacuum in a brutally important department. It reminded me of the Stalin purges, and the resulting chaos in the Soviet Military in WWII. Not the same violent purges, but the same result. Wow, how are the next 4 years going to turn out? Fasten your seatbelts.