Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A brief thought on engagement

One of the things that teachers are supposed to do is to take a group of students, who are widely differing in their interest in a subject, and try to increase that interest level. That is, they are supposed to ENGAGE their students with the subject. One hopes that teachers care more about their subject than the students, but that that care shines through in their teaching, and that some of that interest then rubs off.

So the ideal model becomes: teacher interest in something --> increased student interest in something.

Now that doesn't always happen, of course, and it's completely impossible for EVERYONE to be interested in EVERYTHING. But at the very least, if a teacher cares about a topic, then even if their students hate the topic the students should know that the teacher cares about it AND why someone COULD care about it.

So teachers, by displaying their care for and interest in a subject, attempt to foment that in their students.

Now let's extend that idea a bit. Suppose we want to address society as a whole, and its almost complete lack of interest in the issues surrounding public education. People generally are concerned about their kids' schools in particular, at the level of grades, quality of teachers, and the quality of their kids' experiences at that school. But the issues that are facing public education require more engagement from society than just parochial concerns - they require a society that is engaged, aware, and (right now) angered by what is happening to public schools.

Individual teachers, by displaying care to students, may influence 100 or more students every year. What would happen if teachers, by displaying their care and interest in public education as an entity, took that care to the streets? Engaged with society as a whole? Gave talks, held town meetings, asked questions, provided answers?

What would happen if the millions of teachers around the country stopped bitching at each other about the problems in education and got out there and talked to AND LISTENED TO everyone else? Had genuine conversations with the rest of the public? Would our care, our interest, our concern, rub off?

I'm at the point where I think it's worth a shot.


  1. Nice insights! You're such a wonderful teacher!

  2. Fantastic post. Along the same lines, an update on the state of this movement:

    1. Henri & Paul,

      Thank you both very much! I appreciate the reference, too. What's happening in Chicago and Philadelphia is criminal, and it's so sad that people have had to march to even get that fact out there to the general public.

  3. Mike

    You've made a big first step in this process with your speech at the UU. I do fear, however, that concerns about education are SO parochial that it is hard to gain traction in any serious way. Communities that have the energy/time/wealth to get engaged will and others are just likely to feel defeated by the whole process. I am not wise enough to see the way out of this. I think about the sort of NIMBY reaction to things like power plants being built and imagine that the energy and concern that can be created in this arena are more of the 'Only in my back yard' vein.