Now that the excitement of being back in school is starting to settle down, how can you keep kids excited about learning? Read on.
Gallup, Inc. “How to Keep Kids Excited About School.” Gallup.com, 8 June 2017, http://www.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/211886/keep-kids-excited-school.aspx?g_source.
Six Ways to Keep Kids Excited About School
Recently, there have been gains in the U.S. high school graduation rate. Still, more can be done to help students feel involved and enthusiastic at school. Here are six ideas to address the school engagement cliff:
- Create hope. Hope is rooted in the ideas and energy that students have for the future. Hope expert Shane Lopez once said hopeful students envision a future that is better than the present and believe they have the power to make that future a reality.Gallup Student Poll results show that hopeful students are more likely to say they get excellent grades at school and are over four times more likely than their least hopeful peers to be engaged with school. A great way to help build students’ engagement with school is to find ways to help them build a positive relationship with their future and give them chances to test-drive that future today. Students have better days at school when caring adults encourage them in their quest for clarity about the future.
- Foster talent. When my daughter, Ella, was a kindergartner, a paraprofessional wrote her a kind note at the end of the school year, thanking her for helping to love and support her friend with special needs. That paraprofessional encouraged my daughter’s passion for developing others at a very young age. It was meaningful to have another adult at school recognize the strengths that I as a parent get to build each day.Ella is now a middle-schooler and dreams of becoming a special education teacher. It is important to identify what students do best and what they enjoy doing. A little personalized recognition, coupled with opportunities to identify and develop their strengths, can have big long-term school engagement returns for students.
- Care a lot. Teachers work hard to learn the names of students each school year, but it might be just as important for students to be able to name at least one adult at school who cares about them. While two-thirds of fifth graders surveyed in 2016 strongly agree that adults at school care about them, only about one in four high school students say the same. Each student needs someone who is their cheerleader. Many student-facing adults at school can fill this important role.
- Recognize creative teachers and teaching. Recently, I was privileged to honor teachers who had reached tremendous tenure milestones in our district. This kind of recognition is special, but insufficient. It is important to recognize teachers who boost engagement and help address the school engagement cliff by designing and implementing lessons that boost students’ ability to learn difficult material, while leveraging their talents, skills and interests to get work done.Gallup Student Poll results show that older students are less likely than younger students to strongly agree that their teachers make them feel their schoolwork is important. Leaders should take every chance to recognize teachers who help students feel that the content they are learning and projects they are completing are relevant. This could help blunt the effects of boredom and increase students’ desire to expend discretionary effort that can help facilitate their readiness for the future.
- Have fun. Last year, I snapped a picture of a group of high school students standing outside the school doors, waiting anxiously to get into a Friday night dance. It was fun to see how excited they were to get inside the building. I wondered what could be done to help students feel just as excited to come to school on random Tuesday mornings. Finding ways to make school days more fun can increase students’ positive emotions, and those good feelings can serve as a platform for building engagement that leads to learning growth.
- Model engagement. Teachers and school leaders have the unique opportunity to model engagement. Engaged staff members show students every day what it is like to live, learn and work together.Gallup research suggests there is a link between teacher engagement and student engagement.One way to help battle the school engagement cliff is to prioritize and model teacher and staff engagement. Teachers’ excitement and enthusiasm for learning, their support and care for one another, and their strong commitment to excellence will inspire students to commit to becoming their best selves at school each day.