I’ve been thinking alot about Engagement in the classroom lately. There is so much buzz in the education world about it - if you go on social media, you will find every trick in the book to engage students. As I’m teaching, I find myself asking, are my students engaged? Are they interested? Do they care? Luckily, in kindergarten, most children are naturally curious and love school - it doesn’t take a lot to get them engaged. But I still want them to love learning and feel invested.
Recently, I saw a post that defined engagement as what teachers DO for students. It argued that empowerment is about helping students figure out what they can do for themselves. This really resonated with me. I love to have fun and bring a splash of excitement to my class, but again, that is coming from me. What I really want is for my students to see themselves as the directors of their learning. That’s the ultimate goal in my book.
So yes, I want my students engaged, but what I truly want is to empower them with owning their learning. Yes, some of that comes from owning their learning space. Blank walls feel uncomfortable, but I tell you, after three weeks with my class, when families came to Open House, those walls weren’t blank. They were filled with student writing. Student art. Student photographs. I had many families comment on this and my reply is always, ‘if students didn’t participate in some way, it doesn’t go up.’
Beyond our classroom walls, I am trying to give students a voice in their learning whenever possible. How would you like to sit on the carpet? Here are some choices. Would you like to read or play a math game when you arrive? You pick. How should we set up our classroom library? Let’s decide as a class and then do it.
There are pioneers out there. I follow them. They inspire me. They put kids at the center of learning - showing them how to own it. Empowering them.
Are my students engaged? Absolutely, but they’re also learning to take ownership of their learning. I’m realizing that engagement is only the beginning, empowerment is where the student takes charge and lifelong learning blossoms. Now is the hour to empower!