Engaging students is at the heart of our work. When students are engaged, they learn. So, how do we engage each and every student?
Some would argue that a caring environment will engage students. This environment encourages students to share their voice, to advocate for their own learning, to collaborate with others, to explore, to think, to create…..
Some would argue that unique programs engage students — programs in the arts, technology, sports, and social justice, to name a few.
Some would argue that effective instruction and innovative learning environments engage students.
I would argue that we need all of the above!
In our public education system in Ontario, we are expected to ensure that all students achieve, to close any achievement gaps and to build confidence in public education.
At the end of the day, our responsibility is to provide equity of access, opportunity, and outcome for our students. Students achieve because each and every student attends a school (access) that has the environment and programs (opportunity) that allows them to excel (outcome). If we take this responsibility seriously and we hold the ideal for each student that they will achieve, then I believe this responsibility and ideal has an impact on the type of programs and learning environments we offer.
In order to fulfill our commitment to each student, schools need to be responsive to the interests and needs of their students. This is no easy task and a school system may need to provide “out of the box” support to ensure that programs are offered that our students may desire or need.
For me the focus of our work needs to be:
- We must engage each and every student.
- Learning environments and programs have an impact on this engagement.
- Listening to student voice is paramount.
- Providing access, opportunity, and outcome is foundational
- There are no perfect answers to the challenge of engaging all students; therefore innovative thinking and practice is needed.
Engaging our students in effective learning environments with programs that respond to their interests and needs is our priority, in a context that never forgets equity of access, opportunity and outcome. By wrestling with how to make this priority a reality, we will strengthen our public education system in Hamilton-Wentworth!!