Pay Attention!

It always surprises people when I tell them that when I observe in the classroom, I rarely watch the teacher.  The reason is that I can evaluate how effective a teacher is by watching the students.  Invariably,  I look for students who are engaged- and I watch for changes in body language, eye contact, and other nuances that tell me the level of engagement.  Then I listen.  When I see disengagement, I listen for the teacher identifying the condition and addressing it through a variety of strategies.  When I discuss this topic with teachers, I emphasize that they need to pay as close attention to the kids as we expect the kids to pay attention to instruction.  We need to see high levels of engagement and react immediately to disengagement.  There are a variety of methods to re-engage a student, from addressing a student directly, using movement, adjusting the topic or activity, to name a few.  One other element that I impress upon teachers is that while we pay attention to our students attentiveness, we also need to be cognizant of their experience and comfort.  Oftentimes there is a direct connection between comfort and engagement.  Think about this fact: Teachers get to talk when they want, move how they want, and sit in the most comfortable seats in the room.  Students have to fold themselves up in a hard plastic chair at a desk, speak only when allowed, move only when allowed, while the expectation is that they are to be highly attentive.  Teacher attentiveness to this fact, and empathy for our students will allow us to make sure that we allow organized freedoms that provide comfort, and thus heighten engagement.  But the teachers, as much if not more so than students, have to pay attention.