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Engagement, Hope, and Caring

How engaged are you with students in your classroom? Do you talk with your students, or do you talk at your students? Do you think your students believe you care about them? How important is any of this?

Goochland High School participated in the Gallup Student Poll last fall. Those of us in charge of logistics rolled our eyes, of course. How many surveys will we have to manage this school year? Despite my eye-rolling, I am glad we participated. It seems there is a lot going on with the data collected at the time. I do not have time to analyze the data myself, but there are smart people doing that, and other smart people writing about the important bits for us. KQED’s Mind/Shift blog has republished a blog post by Anya Kamenetz originally posted at the Hechinger Report.

 Gallup found that students who agreed with the following two statements: 1. “My school is committed to building the strengths of each student” and 2. “I have at least one teacher who makes me excited about the future” were 30 times more likely to be engaged.

Our mission statement expressly states that we are to unlock the potential of every student. Our strategic plan has an entire section dedicated to engagement. And at every faculty meeting at GHS, Mr. Newman encourages us to care for our students, to get to know them and understand them a bit better. He certainly leads by example. Every morning as I walk in the door, Mr. Newman is surrounded by students waiting to talk to him. He knows their names and even a few details of what might be going on with their families.

When you take the time to know your students, it shows you care. If you care about them now, it is more likely you will care about them in the future. If you don’t care about them now, when you see them as often as you do, it is quite certain you don’t care what will happen to them after they leave your classroom. When someone cares, there is hope.

The Gallup survey also attempts to measure hope to find out how it affects student outcomes.

Gallup researchers have found in peer-reviewed studies that their “hope” measure was a better predictor of grades in college than SATs, ACTs or high school GPA. In a third study, students’ levels of hope accounted for almost half of the variation in math achievement and at least one-third of their variation in reading and science scores.

Yeah, that’s nice. How do hope and engagement affect my SOL scores? I don’t know. Maybe you shouldn’t care, either. As Ms. Kamenetz wrote in a post all about metrics in education.

Tracking outcomes is more complex than reporting test scores. It’s also more relevant.

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