Research backs up the fact that too many students in our country are disengaged from school. Reasons range from poverty to boredom to poor teaching to lack of skills with numerous other factors woven in. Therefore when we find pockets of high engagement, we owe it to others to share exactly what got these students turned on to education. This series, Engaging the Disengaged, will attempt to highlight factors from research as well as individual case studies that shine the spotlight on how to motivate students to fall in love with learning and school.
Elena was one of those students who had multiple reasons to be disengaged. After four years of instruction with her, I received this letter in the mail the summer of her seventh-grade year:
30 years ago, I heard a presenter share that teachers did not need to love their charges to teach well. I remember sneaking a peak at the audience and wondering if they knew my error: I was crazy about my students. Now, after 32 years of being delighted by children and adolescents I have the courage to say I vehemently disagree.
I learned quickly in my teaching career that kids must love their teacher and feel loved in return if learning is to be maximized. The more I loved and cared for them, the easier it was to get their attention. The easier it was to get their attention, the more they learned.
Because I worked hard to develop a relationship with Elena she was willing to read at home catching up on her much needed reading skills. Because I loved Elena she worked hard at revising her writing to make it more meaningful. Because I loved Elana she tried hard to attend to each of my lessons. Because I loved Elena she came to my class motivated to learn to read and write.
It is fall and school has just begun for most of us. Let’s fall in love with our new students and “do so quickly.” We haven’t a moment to waste.
Please respond to this blog post with any stories of your own about motivating and engaging students. Here are some quotes to inspire you:
Stevie Quate and John McDermott say that:
And 20 years ago Lucy Calkins said: