In 2003, I got engaged. It was a bright sunny day, and I had my plan. My friend Winnie would ask my then girlfriend to dinner to celebrate her university grad while her husband waited in the wings. Once they sat down for dinner and ordered, the waiter would bring out the ring instead of food, I would pop in, I would ask the big question, Michelle (my now wife) would say yes, Winnie would call Kenny, and we would sit down together and have a nice meal to celebrate. Other than me almost face planting into the glass of the restaurant and being too nervous to remember to ask the question when the ring came out - the rest happened according to plan. She said yes, we had our dinner - and then - the planning.
Yes - the planning. The planning of the wedding and life together required our full attention: attention to wedding details, guests lists, honeymoon, dinner menu, photographers, venue, life after, where we would live, where we would work, would we want kids....everything required us to be fully invested. And... thankfully, because we were fully invested - we had a great wedding and, life has also been, despite the regular ups and downs of a normal marriage, pretty awesome.
In sum, we both new we belonged together and then got engaged so that we could pour our entire beings into planning the wedding and also the marriage. And what did we learn? Commitment: that we had to be all in. If we wanted to be successfully married, both of us had to be part of each other's families, sacrifice for each other no matter what, and serve each other with love, kindness and compassion as best we could.
That is the meaning of engagement. A complete and full investment. Now - ignore the cute pictures of my kids and stop trying to figure out how a guy like me convinced a girl like that to marry me. That may puzzle you for years....instead - think about the real meaning of the word engagement.....then....
Transfer the notion of full commitment and investment from marriage to students and school.
ok? Got it? Good.
We often confused engaging kids with keeping them active. You know, this type of thinking...
"As long as we keep them moving and interested...they may learn something! Let's make it fun!"
This is all well and good but it's only temporal. Just try that type of thinking while engaged to be married. I can guarantee you that if that's how your engagement goes, your marriage likely won't last. True engagement in schools means:
First - kids must feel membership. They must feel like they belong. Just as during pre-engagement, my wife and I knew that we belonged - to each other and each other's family - for better or for worse, so too must students feel they belong to your school community: for better or for worse. They must know they'll never be left out, never be left alone and always have a high level support: just like in a family.
Second - once they feel membership - then, they are ready to fully commit and invest in learning - to be engaged. But this takes effort on both parties. As educators, we must also dive into the deep end and do everything possible to show students that we are ready to walk alongside and engage THEM in their learning process. Just like with a couple, engagement is not one person doing something to entertain the other and to keep him/ her interested - it's two parties mutually deciding to forge ahead and walk the educational path untravelled....