By: Emma K. Marvel
During my time as an educator in Texas, I came across all sorts of acronyms, approaches, and systems that are touted to be phenomenal for producing “student engagement.”
See end of post for explanations, links, and more examples.
That’s just to name a few… and I’m, by no means, an expert on the mass of educational heuristics and programs for fostering student engagement!
However, my background as an educator and previous experiences have given me a unique understanding of the value of true engagement within a group setting.
The concept is somewhat ignored by neophyte leaders as they have yet to realize that the members of their team are always engaged with something.
Though, that something may not be the main focus designed for the team. In a classroom this sort of wayward engagement (note passing, phones out, friends, doodling, side convos, social media, staring off into space, items brought from home etc.) can derail an entire lesson– thus offsetting the entire week’s goals and the ripple effect goes on…
In the career world–wayward engagement looks surprisingly similar– phones out, too many side-convos, staring off into space, youtube, social media, you get the idea.
Wayward engagement happens when a leader fails to engage their team with the desired goal(s).
Team members feel unchallenged, bored, lacking in resources, uninterested, unaccountable, and simply feel they must bide their time, avoid rocking the boat, and get the heck outta dodge when the end of the day arrives.
The thing is, as a teacher, I had students who would use all the same wayward engagement techniques TO ENGAGE with the goals I had set for the day. Because they wanted to.
The chosen outlets for time wasting are not the problem.
They can actually become part of the solution if you choose to step outside of your “box”– whatever ideas of historical leading/education practices you may have–and dump them.
The problem in itself is the lack-luster approach we have formed to problem solving, and collaboration.
We act like we don’t need each other. And then we turn to Facebook the moment a task grows stale.
Ergo: We need our team. We need to be commonly focused on the same goals–we need open conversation about road blocks, bumps, and feelings of inadequacy. We need the team to function as a team and not as a group of individuals working nearby, or in a geographically similar location.
That is how I got my classroom on board and engaged–no program--just the proper inspiration to work together, and accountability when someone chose to slack-off, thus hurting the focus of the team. We.were.one.
I told them, “I don’t know how you do it in “so-and-so’s” class—but this is Mrs. Marvel’s class and when you walk in that door–we are going to attack the day together–or you can leave.” And I meant it. And they loved that I meant it.
We don’t need fewer: phones, side-convos, less staring off into space, youtube, or social media etc. We need all of those things, (in moderation) to be reflectively focused on our common goals.
Workplace engagement is the idea that all those who are showing up or logging in are present mentally, creatively, and socially in the process of accomplishing an agreed upon, common goal.
Engagement comes from having individual issues resolved. As we resolve issues people feel better about their work, the environment, as well as their colleagues. Because we actually resolve issues rather than just talking about them people are motivated to continue to “show-up” with their thinking caps on, encouraging words and solutions in tow, and an overall desire to not only “make it through the day” but to function well as a team in the process.
The leader is not the “King of the Court.”The manager or teacher is not the one forcing forward momentum.
The effective team leader is the one who can keep everyone engaged with the common goal–not engaged with other things.
The efficient manager therefore addresses communication issues, time management concerns, personal beliefs, and misinformed persons with a gentle dexterity, that causes the rest of the team watching to feel as if they belong, that they have something of value to contribute, and that losing their engagement would hurt everyone.
Therefore address the team as follows, and encourage them to view each other similarly:
“Don’t fall off the boat! We won’t get where we are going as fast without each of you on board, doing your part.”
To close, in order to best approach the combat of your team members ‘fizzling out’ –one must fan the flames so to speak by:
- Finding out what your team is engaged in. Look at the issue from a different angle. Consider the source of the wayward engagement. How can it be used to focus on the team’s common goals? Try to use the wayward engagement to guide your solution process.
- Creating a true team. Don’t allow fake team behaviors–It should be “all for one, and one for all–or you gotta go.” (Of course–you are welcome back as soon as you are aligned and back on board.)
- Allowing “outside of the box” thinking and collaboration. EVEN if this involves youtube, staring off into space, doodling, etc. As long as it is focused on common goals this in itself fosters engagement on the individual level–which can (and does) spark engagement in anyone who collaborates with the inspired team member.
- Resolving individual and group issues quickly and emphatically. Don’t allow wiggle room for negativity that is not solution-oriented. Address group issues within the group and individual issues in private. Be sure that everyone knows when a final decision has been made–this creates a sense of safety and trust within the team and its leadership. More buy-in, happier team members, more workplace engagement.
- Don’t forget, you as the leader, are NOT the “King/Queen” of the show. Handle others with respect and dignity, give the benefit of the doubt, and keep them focused on common goals while valuing their unique and individual ways of tackling problems.
Do these things and ‘fizzle out’ will essentially become a non-issue.
Good luck and God bless on your leadership journey! ~em
- Kahoot.it (Online quiz and gaming approach to learning)
- Plickers (App for testing and grading student work via individual & scan-able student codes.)
- Screen-castify (To invent videos that are individually watchable and re-watchable)
- TRTW (Talk, Read, Talk, Write)
- TPRS (Total Physical Response Story-Telling)
- Gamification (Using familier game strategies to foster student buy-in)
- Total Immersion, Realia, Project-based Learning, Comprehensible Input…
- TELPAS (Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System)
- STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness)
- SIOPs Training (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol)
- P-DAS & T-tess (Teacher eval. systems in Texas)