Sitting with a group of administrators recently, they were discussing some of the issues facing their school and “attendance” was one of them. As I listened, I tweeted this out to try to clarify my thinking:
A subtle difference between “How do we increase student attendance?” and “How do we create an environment where students want to attend school?” The second question puts an onus on what environments we create in our classrooms that students are excited to be a part of.
— George Couros (@gcouros) March 6, 2018
In the past, many of the solutions that have been suggested for increasing attendance have either “carrot or stick” solutions. Punishment for not showing up, or awards for being there all the time. But what if the quality of the learning in the classroom is low, yet students, to win an award, show up every day? Is that really fair to our learners?
One story told to me by a teacher years ago, was regarding a few students in her classroom that were chronically late to class. The class was right after lunch, and so this was already a challenge at the high school level with students leaving the campus during that break. They tried the “carrot or stick” approach, both punishments and rewards, but this changed nothing in the classroom. She had then told me that she decided to replace some desks and get a few couches to place at the front of the classroom, and seating would now be “first-come-first-serve.” Those same few students were now rushing to get to class each day.
This story reminds me of this quote:
Every time I write something like this, someone will comment with something like, “What about personal responsibility?” or, “Not everything we do in life will be fun!”
But the point is, we control what we can control. Not everything has to be fun, but not everything should be boring and irrelevant either. As educators, we have responsibility for the environments we create.
In response to my original tweet, someone stated (paraphrasing), “You will get closer to solving the first question if you address the second.”
What impact would the following three things have on attendance in your school:
- Learners should feel valued, not only for who they are and are becoming, but what they bring to your school.
- Learning should be compelling, engaging, and empowering.
- They have a deeper understanding of “why” they are learning what they are learning.
What impact would the above three ideas have on your professional learning? Showing up means very little if people are checked out.
If you focus on what you control and what is possible, educators can continue to create an environment to help learners bloom within our education system.
Source: George Couros