Student Engagement and School Reform

Felton School
The old school one room school house is a long way from my technology rich classroom. I imagine in those days student engagement was accomplished with a switch from the willow tree and a dunce cap. Those are not among the tools in my teacher tool box, but that doesn’t mean student engagement is not still an issue.

I started actively thinking about this earlier in the week when I read Larry Ferlazzo’s blog post on transactional vs transformational teaching. I am interested in reading Mr. Ferlazzo’s writings because he is an active classroom teacher in an inner city school not very far from my own. While I have never met him or visited his classroom I believe there are many similarities between his students and mine.

So when Mr. Ferlazzo talks about transformational teaching I listen. Like many teachers I struggle to change the way things are in schools. Too many of my students show up at school each day and check out. They do not engage in school, they just attend school. When I look at the data, I find that it has been this way for a long time. Year after year some of these kids go to school every day and fail at school. And every day I seem to bang my head against the wall trying to change that. How can I engage more students?

So this morning someone, sorry I can’t find who it was, shared a link to a story about students conducting research on how teachers can engage more students. I jumped all over that. Unfortunately it was the same old, same old. Teachers need to lecture less, the students found. Fewer worksheets. Fewer silent activities. More group discussions. More review games. More humor. More group work. No surprises here, these are the things I have been trying to do for my whole career. But I am not making much transformational progress.