Meaningful Engagement

I’m justifying using this photo, which I took on a walk yesterday, by saying that I’m getting at the root of some issues. Really, I just wanted to use this photo.

I teach 3rd graders. Twenty of them, at the moment. Nothing I do is going to genuinely interest all of them at any time. Some will stick with me because they’ve been trained to behave that way. Others will stick with me because they don’t want to make me feel bad. Some will stick with me because they are actually interested in what we’re doing. And who fits into which group can be constantly shifting. (This could also be said about my undergraduates.)

I’m okay with that. I’m not striving for constant attention from twenty eight-year-olds all the time. I also know that there are many distractions at school, whether school is in our building or in their homes. I just don’t see or hear many of the distractions when they are in their home and I’m in my home.

Of my twenty kiddos, I’ve noticed two who seem to be checked out often. They don’t speak up often (although they do speak up some) and I notice they don’t always click on links to interactive slides or such. So this morning I scheduled some one-on-one time with each of them. (Monday mornings are designated for small group time in my district.) I told them each that I had noticed they seemed distracted some and I wondered if they had noticed it too. Both told me they had.

One shared that there are days when both parents are at work outside of the home and the older siblings are in school too. They all have different daily schedules and this student is finding their movements around the house to be distracting. I inferred that when dad is home, he helps keep everyone on track too.

The other student said that the family dog and the younger sister (who has special needs) both cause distractions. This student also mentioned how distracting it is when certain students turn on their mics to talk because their homes are quite loud.

I then asked each of them what I could do to help them or if they had any ideas of strategies they could try to help themselves. The first student felt it would be helpful if I checked in regularly. That might be me asking that student for their thoughts more frequently or sending private messages in the chat to check in. Just more frequent reminders to engage.

The second student asked that everything be repeated three times because it can be hard to hear. I pushed back against that, as it seems a bit unreasonable and boring for those who are constantly engaged, but we agreed that directions and big ideas could be added to the chat to be sure no one missed them.

These two, short conversations with kids were so helpful for me. I hadn’t really considered (and it pains me to admit to it) that some students may not be hearing everything for a variety of reasons and not want to ask for things to be repeated. I can be far more proactive about that.

My goals this morning were two-fold. I wanted to problem solve with these kiddos in the hopes of increasing their engagement and building their strategies and I wanted to check in with them and remind them that I care about them and am invested in them.

I didn’t anticipate learning as much as I did. I should have, but I didn’t.

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