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It doesn’t matter what this lesson is about.

The below is a photo of me working in a rather unusual classroom position with a Prep student at Dorset PS, one of our valued Partner Schools.

Well, that’s what most people see anyway.  I don’t.

I see at least twelve students, half of those participating in this particular whole class activity, fully engaged in their learning.

It’s a funny thing that word “engagement”.  We say it a lot, but I’m not sure we stop often enough to think about what it means.

My definition of engagement in terms of classrooms is “young people thinking, speaking, listening or doing”.  And if you’re teaching Prep and achieving more than say 50% engagement at any particular time … then you’re probably doing something right.

I love the look of pure engagement on these students’ faces.  But make no mistake, it’s not because I’m comically failing on my belly or because I’m some incredibly talented instructor.

It’s just because we’re in a circle.  That’s why engagement is happening. The absence of powerful positions sends a strong contextual and architectural intention to my students that we’re going to do education together.  

This is the antithesis of doing education to them, where I’d assume a powerful position at the front of the room and bark instructions.  In that situation, students routinely resist and check out.  

In a circle, if I’m honest, my students tend to mimic me.  If I act interested in the topic, then they act interested.  I get to set the tone for the circle, and thereby the instruction, through the behaviour, attitude, language and practice that I choose to deploy.

In the time you have left in 2019, run a few circles as replacements to any time you’d usually instruct from the front of the room.  See what happens.  Mostly, check on the engagement levels of the students you teach.

You might just discover something that will change everything in 2020.