Imagine this. You are a 10th grader. Week one, you are coming off summer break to find out that your parents signed you up for virtual learning. Frustration is an understatement as you beg and beg to go to school in person. In an effort to show your parents what you think about their decision, you decide not to work for the first two weeks. After two weeks and several privileges are taken away, it becomes clear that you might as well get to work. You decide to get started only to see your extensive list of missing assignments coupled with current tasks that you know you are currently falling more and more behind on. Now, your idea of making a comeback feels hopeless.
I used to think it was all about preventing students from becoming disengaged in my classroom, and felt successful if they were compliant and stayed on task.
As education becomes more virtual, I realize that it is nearly impossible to prevent students from being disengaged at some point. Even the best students will lose their place temporarily due to the plethora of distractions and new normal. What if it’s really about opportunities for re-engagement. The objective is no longer only about keeping everyone focused and on task during a class period, but about building ways for students to re-engage with the course and material when they fall away.
And then things changed last March. Classrooms were different, and I had to find a new way to keep students’ attention. Methods I had once used to keep students engaged were only partially effective now. It will always be my goal to keep as many kids actively participating in the learning process, but I am learning that there is so much more to consider. Today I realize that It’s not just about initial engagement. It’s about the overall process of connecting with the course.
The Modern Classrooms Project recently posted a podcast “Supporting Disengaged Students.” https://modernclassroomspodcast.fireside.fm/5 It was as I listened to this podcast, that the light went off for me as an educator. The big question was, “How am I building in opportunities for students to re-engage in my classroom?”
Over the last month, I am becoming more intentional about helping students re-engage with my content. Ideas I am trying range from sending emails to students and parents, and giving them encouragement about the work they do turn in. Rather than focusing on the long road ahead, and the skills that need to be improved, I start by getting excited about their strengths. There will always be time to teach a new skill or share a grammatical tip. But, sometimes, that time is not now.
I want to deliver the message that no matter how long students have been “gone”, I am always happy they have returned.