Sometimes, you need to step away; and, I stepped away for nearly three years. Here is what I’m currently working on:
For decades, it has been widely agreed that engagement in schools refers to students’ behaviors with which they intensely apply themselves to learning. Attributes of students’ willingness and desire to participate play a role, but contemporary perspectives on engagement in school include students’ ability to persevere through challenges and for sustained periods of time (Fletcher, 2015; Loveless, 2015; NSSE, 2013; Strong, Silver, & Robinson, 1995). Fletcher (2015) adds that successful educators are the ones who create conditions within classrooms that allow opportunities for students to engage. Through academic challenges, or rigor, collaborative activities, and meaningful relationships and interactions with the teacher and adults, students are more likely to feel supported and will participate willingly in the learning activities.
Importance of engagement
The National Survey of Student Engagement (2013) results in mathematics suggest that self-reported high engagement is not an indicator for high achievement; however, high engagement is an indicator for school connection. Students who are engaged in the school process are more likely to stay in school, are more likely to learn skills around problem solving, and are more likely to acknowledge a sense of belonging to the school community. These positive factors contribute to higher graduation rates and generally higher grades. Low engagement tends to be prevalent in higher poverty communities, increasingly evident as students move through the system and into higher grade levels (Fredricks et al, 2011).
Relevance of engagement to music education at the middle school level
I am a middle school instrumental music teacher with over 18 years of experience in music education. I have come to support the position that visual and performing arts classes, including the school bands, must coexist as both an artistic experience, with a focus on aesthetics and musicianship, and as a utilitarian, academic support experience. The classes cannot exist – dare I say should not exist — as only one or the other, but as both, simultaneously.