I attended a school assembly the other day prepared for our usual recitation of athletic successes (losses are rarely mentioned), announcements of college visits, and general exhortations that dress code could be more faithfully followed. Rather than the usual housekeeping details, however, I was pleased that one of our students made a thorough presentation on the Syrian situation, complete with slides and a video on how sarin gas affects humans. The best part was that the presentation was not done as part of a class assignment: rather, it demonstrated a positive level of personal student engagement.
Unfortunately, this level of engagement is more the exception than the rule in many schools. The High School Survey of Student Engagement (Indiana University) shows that 66% of students report being bored in school every day, and boredom remains one of the leading predictors of student disengagement from school. Students report that leading causes for boredom include lack of interest in material (81%), lack of relevance (42%), no interaction with teacher (35%), and lack of challenge (33%).
Is your child engaged in school? Or put another way, is your child simply present at school or are they an active participant? And, as the parent, what can you do or say to increase your child’s engagement? I believe it is worth your time and effort to have ongoing discussions with your child about what is happening in their classrooms.
It might not be easy to engage them, and I offer a few tips to help stimulate conversations. Be sure to phrase your questions so they do not allow for “yes” or “no” answers. Work hard to ask followup questions that show your own interest in the subject. Ask your child’s teachers what they hope to achieve by the end of the year and support them when they try to go beyond the basics to establish a level of excitement. True learning and good grades stem from excitement and engagement.
Is your school engaging your child? This does not mean the school’s primary focus should be on entertaining your child. School should be difficult at times and learning requires a fair amount o hard work. But it does mean that teachers and schools should take time to ask the question behind the question. Good teachers create a dialogue with students that requires the student to go beyond their often simplistic first response. Good schools should allow their teachers the luxury of showing their students why they enjoy teaching the subject they have chosen.
So redefine what you look for in your child’s education. Think engagement and not just grade. In the long run, your child will become a much stronger student.