Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Attendance Vs. Engagement- Part II


I find many students have learned this behavior of just existing. I observe students walking in, having the correct materials, and sitting down. This is all a good start. However, many students stop there. I deplore this culture in our school; yet, I have a feeling it's pretty widespread.

The previous post about attendance vs. engagement definitely addresses this. It's a paradigm shift. Our students are supposed to strive for excellence, yet this culture of existence doesn't demonstrate a pursuit of excellence.

In this culture, wouldn't it be great for a teacher to have a daily assistant? The assistant (every class period) would make all of the anecdotal notes about student engagement, questioning, participation, etc. Couldn't we truly be professionals then? That's a pie in the sky idea, but when we are referred to as professionals, we should have all the tools and resources available to professionals in other fields. A tangent... I know.

Without the help of an assistant to keep accurate and interesting records, my mind goes back to a culture of excellence and learning. It has to be pervasive in a building- almost contagious. Kids are here to learn, not just to be. Kids are here to question, strive, seek, find, etc. Excellence begets excellence. Attendance vs. engagement wouldn't be an issue if our culture shifted.


  1. Now that you're addressing this from a cultural level, the DNA of a building like that requires EVERY person share this passion for excellence and learning. Teachers included. No more counting down days to weekends or spring breaks ... I think the kids have picked up a lot of the "existence" attitude from adults. We have a lot of passionate teachers at Manitou Middle School ... if this shift could happen anywhere, I think it would be here.

  2. I love the idea of a personal assistant. This assistant would give me the opportunity to do more than exist as a teacher. Suddenly, I am free to teach, to explore with students, to learn side by side with them instead of documenting the necessary. Perhaps restructuring our personnel could be a step in this direction? What would that look like?

  3. A few comments to add. I too believe it is a cultural shift. I don't know the cause, but there is certainly a slide underway where students are less and less engaged. There are many arguments we could make as to the cause, but that will not get us closer to the solution.

    Perhaps a discussion around building wide EL's. I am not sure where this would go. Would those be the EL's for the participation side of the grade.

    It still would fall on the teacher to be the judge, jury and executioner, as the case may be. But, it might give clear criteria and create some consistent expectations building wide. I would advocate keeping them few and concise. Perhaps this is some work we can take on for May 1?

  4. No big revelation or innovation, but walking around the room documenting apparent "engagement". It is amazing how much more work students complete when I simply monitor, making myself available for quiet side conversations with students. They were also much better a following directions.This is one level of engagement that may very well encourage or lay the ground work for higher levels of engagement.