Get Engaged!
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

When was the last time you were required to sit through something? Maybe it was mandatory training on a new textbook series, a PD session on instructional practices, or a review session on school discipline policies. You probably don’t have to travel too far into the past to remember a time when you sat through a presentation. Can you remember what your brain was doing while you were sitting there? Perhaps you were taking notes on the relevant parts of the material. Perhaps you were working on your grocery list, or mapping out your child’s carpool plan for the week. Perhaps you were discreetly checking Instagram, or your email, or the clock on your phone.

Our brains love to be engaged. When the activity we’re supposed to be doing doesn’t offer an opportunity for active engagement, our resourceful minds tend to find something else to do.

Engagement is the “E” in Inspired Teaching’s ABCDE of Learner Needs, which I’ve been exploring in Hooray For Monday these past few weeks. As educators, we get to build on and nurture our students' innate desire to be engaged learners. We know our students are more productive, and happier when they are engaged in meaningful work; so we create lessons that invite active participation in order to meet that need.

But how do we do this for ourselves?

Engagement: “I want to be actively involved."

Engagement is evolution’s reward for learning. Engagement can happen through play and laughter, but humans also derive pleasure from active cognitive processes such as creating, problem-solving, reasoning, decision-making, and evaluation. 

Where is this need in your life right now according to this spectrum? 

How is the need for engagement being met in your life right now? 

What changes might be necessary in order for your need for engagement to be better met? 

You can explore an interactive version of these questions on our ABCDE website.

My colleagues and I are obsessed with making learning engaging. That’s why all of Inspired Teaching’s professional learning – on instruction, classroom management, SEL, relationship building, and more – is presented in workshop format and based on improvisation. When we teach teachers, we are looking at and speaking to one another; we’re intellectually and physically active; we’re writing, debating, laughing, listening, creating, supporting, and developing new material together to reach our shared goals for our students.

We too have sat through our share of passive PD/grocery list-making sessions.

We owe it to our students, and to ourselves as education professionals, to take engagement seriously.    

Here’s to a week of learning that is engaging and meaningful - for everyone.

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Hooray For Monday is published weekly by Center for Inspired Teaching, an independent nonprofit organization that invests in and supports teachers. Inspired Teaching provides transformative, improvisation-based professional learning for teachers that is 100% engaging – intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Our mission is to create radical change in the school experience – away from compliance and toward authentic engagement.

4 Ways to Increase Engagement this Week

  1. Take 10 minutes out of class this week to do something engaging with your students - like playing wordle, sharing TV recommendations, or having an impromptu dance party. Notice how you feel and what happens to students' attention after this experience.
  2. Choose a podcast to listen to on the way to work that is on a topic you find fascinating but that has nothing to do with teaching. Notice what happens to your attention when you are listening.
  3. Talk to your students about engagement and ask them to assign three things you've done together over the past several days a score from 0 to 5 (least to most) engaging. See what you learn from the results.
  4. Keep a mental count of how many times you engaged your own curiosity today. If you feel the number is low, what might you do to increase it tomorrow?

What a Classroom Engaged in Real Learning Looks Like 

In this Washington Post article, Aleta outlines 8 specific things you will see taking place in a classroom where the level of engagement of high: 
  1. Independent problem-solving 
  2. Students struggling and persevering
  3. Physical movement and serious play 
  4. Students imagining creative approaches to challenges
  5. Real-world connections
  6. Wide variety of student work and types of assessment
  7. Student-led discussions
  8. Social-emotional skills and empathy

Bring a Team to Our March Institutes!

By the time March rolls around, teachers tend to know their students pretty well. But the energy needed to keep things engaging can be low. Pressure increases to prepare for annual assessments, and it can be difficult to make time for engagement and fun. Given this reality:

  • What else might be possible?
  • How can we maintain a laser-like focus on growing students' intellect while still nurturing their inquiry, imagination, and integrity?

You'll find the answers to these questions in our March Institutes. Join us for a high-energy hands-on experience where you'll walk away with four different student-led projects ready to implement in your classroom. Each project is adaptable to any grade level, virtually guarantees a joyful outcome, and requires little to no material resources:

  1. Embodying Mathematical Concepts through Dance
  2. Building Problem-Solving and Literacy Skills through Automatic Writing
  3. Documenting the Past through Oral Histories
  4. Practicing Citizen Science by Watching Things Grow

Increase the likelihood you will apply what you learn in this Institute by bringing a team from your school. That team can include classroom teachers, instructional aides, specials teachers, support staff, school leaders, and more. This class is COMPLETELY FREE and there is no size limit to the number of participants you bring.

DC Public School teachers get PLUs through the Washington Teachers' Union for participation. Certificates of completion are available upon request for all participants.

Register for Wednesday, March 9 | 4-5:30 PM ET
Register for Wednesday, March 9 | 7-8:30 PM ET
Register for Saturday, March 12 | 7-9 PM ET
Download a Calendar of Our Monthly Institutes
Courses for Teachers
#Inspired2Learn Resources
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