Natural Learning

Are We Really Measuring Student Engagement?

by Therusticfive-

Is it about true student engagement or compliance?

I know I’m going to catch some flack here from fellow teachers, but I’m going to be brutally honest with you anyways about what’s truly being measured in today’s classrooms. Is it student engagement or is it compliance? This is solely my opinion on how things are operating in the public schools and by no means am I undermining our fabulous teachers in the classrooms. This is more about the system and what they are told they have to do by administrators, superintendents, publishing companies, and government mandates.

Today, many school districts use set curriculums with many of them being scripted. In other words, everyone on the same page at the same time. Each child no matter their reading level or interest is reading the same exact story and the teacher  reads from the script in the teacher’s manual which also provides the day’s lesson plans. Heck it even lays out the entire unit and tells the teacher exactly what and how to teach.  How exciting right?

Did I mention these programs come equipped with worksheets too?

As a teacher this drove me batty and I HATED it, but I began to notice things happening in the classroom and in our trainings for the new “amazing” curriculum that was going to boost our lagging M-STEP scores. Well this was the line given by the publishing company that our district bought hook, line, and sinker.

In my short 7 year career as a teacher, all I heard about was student engagement. Mainly how to improve student engagement in the classroom. However, I began to notice we were actually doing the complete opposite in the classroom.

We weren’t actually looking for our students to be engaged, but rather looking for compliance from our students. We weren’t suppose to care whether or not they are ready for the lesson developmentally or even whether or not they found the lesson to be of interest to them. I was giving “Blue” or Responsible Thinking sheets out to students who weren’t completing their work during classtime. Students were choosing to not do their packets of worksheets which created a large number of students with missing assignments and failing grades. Heck we even tried to bribe, oops I mean reward, students with field trips and fun days for both No Failing grades and No Missing Assignments. Even this didn’t help to improve our student engagement.

What? Wait a minute here. How can “Blue” sheets and fancy rewards increase student engagement? Isn’t this actually used to get kiddos to comply with doing their work instead of them using their internal desire to learn aka be engaged with the lesson?

See to me, it’s more like we were measuring student compliance rather than truly finding ways to engage our students. Shouldn’t we be helping our students discover their passions, discover their purposes, uncover problems they want to solve and help guide them to finding answers, enrich their lives with truly meaningful information and not just basic info they can Google on their phone in seconds then expect them to memorize and regurgitate for the upcoming multiple choice test?

What’s really expected of teachers? 

But we’re not…. we are expected to do the dog and pony show, create a stellar attention getter for each of our lessons, create behavior plans for those who don’t comply repeatedly, use fear of getting into trouble, grades- both rewarded for A’s and fear of failing grades, fun days and field trips for rewards, question if a child has ADHD or needs medication simply because they are off task during the lesson, or have a child looked at for special education if a child isn’t engaged with lessons.

*Yes, some children do have ADHD, some need meds, and some need special ed services. I’m not going to debate any of these issues. My problem lies with using these as an excuse for noncompliance without first looking at the curriculum and whether or not the child finds it important to them. Is it of interest to them? If not, then the lack of engagement might be the curriculums fault. *Insert Gasp

How is it we don’t look at this first? Rather we blame the child like it’s their fault. I challenge you to find a topic you find boring and then be “engaged” with it 100% while someone lectures you on it. No day dreaming, no doodling, absolutely 100% engaged with the lesson the entire time. Never mind the fact that you maybe hungry, got into a fight with your best friend or any other experience that might interfere with your engagement.

Again, I’m not here to slam teachers. I worked with some pretty fabulous teachers in my career. It IS the system that I don’t agree with, not them. The education of our children is the most important thing in the world, but our current system is failing many of our precious children. I couldn’t change the system from inside. It is just too big and way too messy. So now I want to educate parents on other, more supportive ways they can guide their children to be life long learners beyond the preschool- 12th grade system.

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I’m Melissa Dow, M.ED. I am a wife, mama of 2 and a bonus mama of 1. A former public school educator with 7 years of experience in both special education and general education who is on a new journey to help parents guide their children to uncover their true passions in order to find their life purpose. I love spending time out in nature whether hiking, running, camping, canoeing or just playing in our backyard (aka our outdoor classroom). I also enjoy reading, learning new things, organic gardening and creating our a simple life.

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