Promoting Student Engagement: Are We Sending the Right Message?
Author: Jennifer Williams
September 17, 2014
Promoting student engagement in your school’s culture can seem challenging. How does one develop the right message to send to students? The process can be a tedious one. As teachers, we want to challenge them, but also we want to nourish them. After all, research has shown that positive school cultures and climates are conducive to promoting student engagement. With limitless quotes, messages, and motto’s to choose from, how do you decide on what to fill your halls with? Typically, as educators address new curriculum standards and ongoing assessments, often a results-oriented culture inundates school walls. Much of the emphasis has turned to test scores, and in some settings, this has become the only message students see, hear, and feel. So, we find ourselves asking, what message are we sending our students when they first arrive at school each day?
As all educators know, the academic achievement of every student is a priority. But I’d like to challenge you to ask yourself, “If we are creating learning environments that focus solely on test scores, what are we likely to see over time?”
When Student Engagement is Measured Incorrectly
The answer will vary but perhaps we will see:
- Students who are stressed about “the test.”
- Students who feel their potential is defined by their grades.
- Teachers who see students as test scores.
- Parents who are concerned their child may not pass the tests and perhaps even check out due to his or her inability to understand new teaching and learning practices.
Why do you think this is? If school hallways and buildings are adorned with messages that focus on test scores, then we are constantly reminding students that their main goal is to be the best test taker. We aren’t promoting student engagement in the school’s culture and climate. We are simply promoting the importance of passing a test. While good grades and passing tests are important, they are not the be all, end all of education. K12 education is so much more than that. As new challenges appear every day, we must prepare our students not only for academics but also for adaptability.
Promoting Student Engagement
What if we focused instead on the ability of every child to learn and grow by emphasizing his or her individual strengths and gifts? What if we focused on a more holistic approach to education? What if we found and nurtured the leader in our students and coached them to be their best every day? What if we prepared them to be life-ready leaders?
Then we may see:
- Students who monitor their academic and leadership growth by setting goals and establishing a plan to reach those goals.
- Students who are motivated to succeed in all areas of school and life, not only in academics.
- Teachers who find the greatness in every student and help each one reach his or her full potential.
- Parents who partner with the school to help their children be the best they can be.
If you truly believe that we, as educators, have a responsibility to help every child learn and grow, I invite you to think about the message this picture sends each day to students who enter Adair Elementary in Columbia, Kentucky.
Then, take a walk around your building. Ask yourself, “What messages are we sending our students, staff, and parents each day? Do they echo our priorities and beliefs about children and education? Are we truly promoting student engagement in our school?”
If the environment in your building or classroom is not consistent with the message you want to communicate to your students, make some small changes. Start with the messages the school is delivering to the students. Focus on promoting student engagement in a positive school culture and watch for a difference in your students.