Nathan D. Quesnel
Superintendent of Schools
1110 Main Street, East Hartford, CT 06108 Tel: (860) 622-5107 Fax: (860) 622-5119 www.easthartford.org
September 28, 2018
We started with a heat wave, we are ending with that reality that colder nights are ahead and I potentially need a canoe to get home. I am looking forward to enjoying fall foliage, fresh apples and hot cider donuts. Thanks for an incredible month together—I really appreciate it!
Over the past month of school we have been focusing on our strategic theme of student engagement=learning. While I typically use this monthly email to deliver a more generic message, I wanted to “break the script,” and turn our focus to a simple tweak that might help October be even better.
For clarity, in East Hartford we do not limit our definition of highly engaged classrooms that have been transformed into a three ring circus, complete with teachers who juggle flaming batons, swallow swords and hand out $50 dollar bills to students shrieking with glee and amazement…pretty cool but not necessarily realistic. Rather in East Hartford we define highly engaged classrooms as places where students actively participate, answer frequent questions, perform rigorous tasks, converse with partners, teach friends, work in meaningful groups, debate critical issues and have a choice in what they study.
My challenge this month is for us to work less and have our students work more. To use a fitness metaphor, I am not getting in any better shape when my trainer does the exercises…unfortunately. Here are four themes to think about as we take on this challenge:
- Less of me, more of you: Find ways to get all of our kids talking, interacting and participating in what is going on in the room…While I know that I found myself wildly entertaining, my student’s apathetic slouch tells me otherwise. Our students appreciate the opportunity to speak, listen and interact…”doing is part of learning…” Let’s get our kids doing!
- Reflect in 10: Think about your class in 10 minute increments (for younger students it may even need to be smaller). If you notice that in that time period, the students have not been required to interact or participate, you may need to adjust.
- Structure and Strategy First: How you set up your room, develop stations, train your students to interact, build learning routines in terms of releasing students AND getting them back is critical. Without detailed planning and effort to train students in these practices, you will never get to engagement.
- Don’t wait for Broadway: If you wait until you are able to orchestrate that magical debate, elaborate rehearsal, show stopping conversation or perfect sunset, we are going to be sadly disappointed and incredibly disengaged. Keep it simple, get them busy—keep the “mini” lesson “mini” and get the students lifting the weights.
Thanks for making this a focus in our rooms this month—you may even find you are having a little fun yourself!
As always appreciative of you, your commitment and the work we share together!
See you in the halls,