Busy vs. Engaged

I had a short conversation with a colleague between classes today that left me saying to myself, “Hmmmm, she doesn’t get it.” The conversation went like this;

“Man my kids are wound up today. Are yours?”
“No,” I replied. “In fact, they are totally engaged in what they are doing. We are creating podcasts on some poetry they wrote that was influenced by a piece of abstract art, glogging about literary devices and making stop motion movies that illustrate the devices. In social studies, they are finishing up a webquest I wrote that has them taking on the perspective of a citizen in an eastern hemisphere country and producing a newscast as if they are reporting from that country.”
“Well, mine are busy too,” she said not offended, but matter of factly.
She continued on to tell me she had just spent the last hour talking to them about the powerpoint they would begin doing in the coming days that would require them to look up demographical information about an eastern hemisphere country.

Really? “Talking to” them? For an entire class hour?

Then I was in my assistant principal’s office this afternoon after school and spotted a stack of discipline referrals sitting on his desk.
“Holy cow!” I said.
“Yeah, this is just from today, he replied, I cleared the stack from last week on Friday.”

These are just a couple of reminders how important it is, especially this time of year, to keep kids engaged. Not “busy”, but engaged. Kids are smart enough to know when they are just being kept busy and their behavior will adjust accordingly. If you find that your kids are wound up or you’re writing more discipline referrals than normal, perhaps it’s a good time to reflect on how much effort you are putting into the delivery of your lesson(s). Are the kids engaged with meaningful lessons that are challenging them with knowledge they still need, promoting inquiry, and reflective in their own sense for the students? Or, are you kidding yourself by thinking that keeping them “busy” is going to keep them out of trouble and keep you from anxiously watching the clock waiting for their time with you to be over so they can exert their energy elsewhere? There is a effective difference in keeping kids busy vs. keeping kids engaged.

One Response to “Busy vs. Engaged”
  1. X the Owl says:

    Great point – It is such a simple concept – engaged compared to busy – however it requires the most difficult of adjustments for teachers –

    They must change their thought process, or mindset. Bored teachers exhibit the same characteristics as bored middle school students. Talking off subject, reading something unrelated to the task at hand, visiting about what they would rather be doing.

    At least the rest of your year will be rewarding!!


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