I was teaching a workshop to teachers last week on a Navajo reservation, on a Saturday. The group was filled with teachers who were thirsting for knowledge about good teaching practices, despite the fact that they had some really great ideas of their own about what good teaching looks like and sounds like.
We began again after lunch with my asking the group to read about, then talk about, then ultimately depict "engagement". Many of them had indicated that they believed good teaching encompassed engagement, but we all agreed the word engagement was easier said than defined or "done".
As each group worked on their depiction, I walked around checking to see if they needed anything. One trio bent over their poster, feverishly applying what one of my colleagues calls "butts up learning" (all bent over the poster, adding ideas, not sitting down). One had clearly just posed a good idea, because the other two were saying, "yes, yes...and let's...." in enthusiastic agreement.
I soon saw what the first one's idea was---they began drawing a picture of a group of three hikers being "guided" through the forest by a taller version, well-equipped with hiking gear the three novice hikers didn't possess.
As I continued to watch the poster take shape, I continued to be more and more impressed with the talk emanating from the group.
I heard statements like:
"A teacher is like a guide, leading the less knowledgeable hikers through the forest."
"Good teachers don't tell students everything. They let them explore at their own pace, with maps and guidebooks to use as they need."
Their final picture showed the novice hikers exploring the hiking trail under the watch of the experienced guide, and I thought to myself, "What a perfect analogy to a true engaging learning process."
What does it mean to you to engage learners in the learning?
Just for today, perhaps we can examine the word in terms of what we want it to look like when it is totally successful in the classroom.