Engagement by John Hendron


This morning, I know we’ll be asked in our leadership meeting to share a schooling experience from our past that demonstrated the concept of engagement. I’m always cautious about this word because in schools engagement is part of a recipe for learning success, but it’s not the only ingredient. And alone, it may be “tasty,” but it has to whipped, stirred, or kneaded in such a way that something greater than entertainment comes out of the mixture.

For me, the two examples I’d share are from my time in the Avon Lake Public Schools in Ohio. My eighth grade Spanish teacher Mrs. McCann was someone who always seemed to care for me — not just as a student — but as a person. This made me feel awfully special to know that someone outside my family was looking out for me. But I ultimately think it helped with engagement, too. That rapport she built with students and getting to know them as people helped us in our comfort level to learn. And that “comfort level” is akin to having the oven at the right temperature, or allowing dough to rest, for the correct amount of time, in a recipe.

Furthermore, I recalled my time as a member of the Avon Lake Shoremen Marching Band.  This was an extra-curricular activity. (And yes, although I won’t point myself out, I do see myself in that video from 1992, along with many of my high school friends.) The musical experience was engaging. But the part that was magic was the knowledge that we were good, and that after a halftime show, we’d accomplished something great. It was something any one of us alone could not accomplish. It was the satisfaction of knowing we worked together as a team to create an awesome show, a “wall of sound,” with the suicide line (trumpets and trombones), batons rising in the air set on fire, and herald trumpets purchased from the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Marching off the field on a Friday night was among the most engaging experiences I had as a high school student because of the experience of achieving something great as a team.

So, I’d pass the question onto anyone in our community. What truly engaging experiences did you have in your school experience? How can we do something similar in our Division today?

My Response

The engaging experience that comes to mind for me is one that most others might find unengaging (disengaging?).  For me, however, it wasn’t.

It was 1981, and I was a sophomore at a new high school, having transferred from public to parochial school that year.  The class was American History, the student makeup was 2% me and 98% high school jocks, and the teacher was the football coach.  (Already sounds like a nightmare, right?) The first engaging moment was when the teacher asked me to take notes for him.  He could talk all day about history but he never had notes.  He noticed that I was scribbling away on a regular basis during his lectures, so he appointed me the class secretary.  Chauvinistic? Perhaps, but it required me to stay on top of my lessons.  (Plus it garnered attention from the jocks who would need me to help pass the class..win/win!)

Was the intention of the teacher to further engage me in my history class?  Probably not, but it worked.  I aced the class, won the admiration of the teacher, and learned quite a bit about history.  I only hope that I inspire students to engage by using their strengths for everyone’s success.