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Two Essential Ingredients in Education – Engagement and Management

Caitlin Corrigan Education, Life in the Classroom

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I’m sure if you asked either of my student teachers about what I would say are the top two important things to master in order to be successful in your classroom that they would both say classroom management and student engagement. They would also say that I could ramble on and on about both of these things and could bore you almost to tears. So when I recently listened to a fantastic episode of 3P’s in a Pod S4 Episode 2: Beginning the Year Successfully I was super excited!

I highly encourage you to listen to this episode, if you haven’t already. For my readers who haven’t heard it yet, some of the main points are that in order to have a classroom run successfully your students need to be engaged in their own learning and need to buy into you and your lesson. Engagement was prioritized as being more important than management.

I loved this podcast, and have listened to it multiple times since I initially heard it. However, I disagree that engagement is more important than classroom management.

On the other hand, I don’t believe that management is more important than engagement. I think these two ingredients are the most important things that a teacher needs to master in order to have a classroom run successfully.

Let me explain, and bring you back to my first few years teaching. I followed the advice given in the podcast, and I had the engagement and buy-in, and strong relationships with my students. My lessons were creative and interesting, and I spent a lot of extra time on nights and weekends to engage my students in their learning. I had a couple of difficult students in each of those classes, and I tried to prevent them from derailing the awesome lessons I had planned. Fast forward to the end of the school year – my students made little growth. Yes, they learned some things, but looking back they could have learned so much more if I had been able to manage my classroom. I see similar things happen year after year when new teachers primarily focus on engagement and put management on the back burner.

On the other hand, solely focusing on management is not going to light the fire for learning in our student’s hearts. Going over rules for every infraction is going to be frustrating for both the students and the teacher, and isn’t going to make children excited to come to school and learn. I’ve seen teachers focus mostly on managing their classrooms, and while their students learn, they look far from happy.

So, how do we mix these two ingredients into the classroom for the best results?

According to the podcast, management comes through engagement. I agree with this 100% but would like to add a layer on. Design your lessons to be engaging, through creative ways of presenting material, and frequent responses to keep your students paying attention. If your lesson starts getting derailed, and you’ve been unable to rein your students back in, STOP! This year I’ve had to “finish engaging activities” early because my students have gotten too excited and have started misbehaving. This is where the management part comes into play; when no learning is taking place the activity needs to stop. That does not mean that your lesson (or you) are a failure, it just means that it is not working right now. Take some time to reflect on why it started going poorly, and address those areas the next time you revisit the activity or lesson.

There was a great line in the podcast – “When the curriculum is engaging, the behavior goes away”. This is another point that I strongly agree with, and I try to plan my most engaging units around when I typically expect more behavior issues to come up, like around Halloween. Over the next two weeks you’ll find my students eagerly learning about bats through creative planning, and hopefully, I’ll have the right proportions of engagement and management in place to keep them excited and motivated to learn.

 

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

 
  • Jen Hudson

    I think it’s a great exercise for teachers to determine for themselves which is more important, as situations, days, and even class periods could provide different responses. An interesting question to bring up is how engagement impacts management and how management impacts engagement. As a practice, I’ve asked my beginning teachers to think about teachers that they believe have excellent classroom management and teachers whose students they believe to have high levels of cognitive engagement. Very rarely are they the same teacher.

  • James King

    I love doing activities in class! I get very disappointed when students get off track and lose focus. Sometimes we set them up for misbehavior with an activity and no parameters. Other times I get sincerely upset with my kids, and extra frustrated. It doesn’t stop me from engaging with them, but my mood is altered when I have to stop an activity and make them sit down, or stop talking…