Friday, April 24, 2015

#youredustory, Week 16: We Can Do Better Than Rigor and Engagement

Prompt: What does rigor and engagement look like in the classroom?

Ooh. Two words I really don't like. Let's do this!

Let's start with engagement. And to be clear - I don't want kids bored in my class. At all.

But.

If you ask me to make a choice between students being engaged and students being curious, I'll choose curiosity any day. Kids can be engaged by a silly costume. Or a dynamic lecture. Are these bad things? No. But if done all the time... I don't want my students paying attention in class to see what weird thing I'll do next. Because with engagement, the teacher is far too often the focus.

Curiosity, to me, is king. When kids are curious, I can get completely out of the way. When curiosity strikes, questions iterate on questions and students really drive and own their own learning. Kids pay attention to what question they want an answer to, not to what I'm doing.

And rigor. That's a tough word. I'll leave the arguments about rigor - and its etymology - to others. I'll repeat something I heard Dean Shareski say on Techlandia a couple months ago: do we want school to be hard for kids all the time? How brutal would your day be, how much would you dislike school, if it was difficult all the time?

To answer the prompt though. Challenge and curiosity - which I'm happier to talk about - sound loud in my classroom. Challenge and curiosity sound like kids talking and doing and disagreeing. Challenge and curiosity involve choice over what is learned and how that learning is demonstrated.

Appropriate challenge and curiosity should drive education - not rigor and engagement.

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