Student Engagement 13 years Later

I have a confession to make. I have been teaching for thirteen years, but I rarely see true student engagement in my classroom. Of course students do the work I assign (for the most part), but it is just a means to the end for most assignments – another hoop for them to jump through.

However, this year I’m teaching in a new problem based learning program at Seycove called FLIGHT.  So for the past few weeks, I have been working with the grade 10’s on a project involving interviewing seniors from the community to get a biographical story and creating written, visual and oral products based on the information.

As part of the project, students have built and painted their own ‘shadow’ boxes as a final presentation piece for the various components of the assignment. That meant going outside of my comfortable English classroom and heading down to the wood shop (with backup support from two colleagues with more practical knowledge than I!) to build the boxes and eventually painting them as well.

What shocked me was what happened to the class. My rambunctious, hard to manage, sixteen year olds became engrossed in the building. There was silence while they hammered and painted. Classroom management ceased to be a concern. I could wander around and actually discuss their work and give constructive criticism. They were really learning.

It reminded me what I need to be doing every day to engage my students. Not every day can be in the wood shop, but every class can have a practical application. If I can manage to build that into my lessons, then I know I will truly be educating my students.

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