A Reader Writes… (Engaging Students)

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In response to the post, “When Does Your School Start and End,” a reader writes:

“The biggest problem my school has is that the faculty is disengaged from the students. It seems to be a hard problem to solve.”

SC Response
This is a difficult issue on almost every campus. It’s not that every teacher is disengaged from every student. It is the fact that teachers pick and choose both when they will engage and who they will engage with. What makes this insidious is that when you pick and choose when to engage, your mind thinks that you are engaged all the time. The result is that at any one time, significant numbers of students are left bobbing in the wake, like flotsam and jetsam.

So how do you combat this? I think there are a number of strategies. First, is awareness. Just as Hyper-monitoring holds a mirror to instructional practice, you need to hold a mirror to teacher / student relationships. You can do this through regular observation by the administrative staff and/or by using an external coach. My opinion is that the external coach would actually see the extent of the problem more clearly.

Second, talk about the issue. Leadership has to be a broken record in communicating the expectation that teachers engage with all students, all the time. I was recently on a campus that is dealing with this issue and the coaching framework we are using is Disney World. At Disney World, when the cast is above ground, in the park, they are always in character. No exceptions. In schools, as soon as we get out of our car in the morning, we have to be in character, until we get back in the car at night. We can’t pick and choose when we will be in “teaching” mode during the day. Kids get regularly and frequently trampled when we operate in this way.

Third, use site visits. Take a team of your teacher to another campus and have them observe the student / staff interactions. It is easier to see our weakness in others than it is to see them in ourselves. And once we visualize the problem, we are in a better position to correct it.

Finally, you may just need to remove the staffer. Schools do not exist to provide steady paychecks to anyone who shows up. They exist to teach students and serve the community. If you are stubbornly hanging on to convenient habits that are detrimental to kids, then you have to go. As I remind everyone I work with, the only unforgivable sin is not being coachable.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…

Recommended Book
The Curse of the “Halo” Effect

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