Thursday, July 24, 2008


E is for Engagement (rather than Accomplishment)

As surprising as it may sound, I’m more interested in how engaged my scholars are than in how much they accomplish. Accomplishment is usually a personal and private thing, but I want my classes to be more communal than personal, more public than private. I’d like to develop a cooperative and supportive ambience in my classroom, and this necessarily involves a spirit of engagement. Accomplishment is most often done solo; engagement is usually done together, jointly, as one. In a spirit of engagement, I want the scholars to win over each other during discussions, draw their classmates into the work at hand, and involve each other in the shared enterprise of education. Engagement can also involve a promise a pledge. If you’re engaged, you’re bound to something, attached to it, dedicated to it. You’ve made a promise to be a part of something special, which is certainly a mood I would like to promote in my classes. To me (and the scholars know how I feel), 8th and 9thgrade English class is not just another 48-minute block in which to watch the clock; it’s a unique period for extraordinary learning, and the students need to be thoroughly engaged in it. They know I expect them to make a silent pledge when they enter the room:I will do my absolute best. That kind of commitment is far more important to me than any personal accomplishments by the kids. After all, accomplishments ebb and flow; engagement is a mind-set, a manner, a way of life.

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