How Elementary School teachers keep children engaged in school

One of the most difficult groups of people to engage are our youngest; Elementary School-aged children. Somehow,  millions of teachers around the world manage to engage these mini-people every single day. 

This begs the question: If they are able to do it, surely engaging mature professionals is a simple task. And yet, we find time and time again that employee disengagement remains an difficult problem in many businesses. What are we doing wrong? Perhaps there is something we can learn from our teacher colleagues…


How Do They Do It?!

Though teachers have a bunch of ways to keep a classroom engaged, we’re just going to touch on a few below.

One of the most basic techniques involves giving a child choice in how they want to be engaged in how they perform a task. E.g. They may be given a choice as to whether they want to prepare a poster about a particular learning topic or whether they would like to create a song about it,  these techniques appealing to different styles of learning i.e. visual versus auditory. 

Lesson: Giving choice in how to perform a task drives engagement

Another way in which teachers drive classroom engagement is to keep concise. Most children have very short attention spans. To keep students on task and able to concentrate over the course of a full school day,  many teachers will “ride the waves”, incorporating short breaks into their lesson plans e.g. allowing students to stand up and jog on the spot for 30 seconds before returning to their work. The physical aspect helps to keep children’s attention flowing  and is quite an effective technique. 

Lesson: Engagement can be built through timed “peak hours” of work time, where employees all stay silent for a few hours to maximise concentration

Finally, the most common way in which teachers keep children engaged is to maintain an effective rapport. To do this, a student must trust in the teacher that they have their best interests at heart, whilst being able to relate to their teacher. This can be achieved when a teacher shows genuine caring and empathy for the child.

Lesson: Engagement is maintained through “effective rapport”.


Does this translate to the workplace?

On a long enough timeline, these children will eventually become adults. As adults, we are only a few steps away from the children we once were. We have only slightly longer attention spans. We still require the nurturing relationships and desire to be valued. 

Though there are some key differences between the workplace and the classroom, they are fundamentally similar. People are people, and the principles of engagement are the same. There isn’t much of a difference between a classroom and a workplace environment when you think about the challenges surrounding keeping people motivated either.

Of the three key lessons here, it’s important to note that their execution in the workplace translates differently when considering the relationship of managers and team members compared to teachers to students. The principles translate to the workplace, but the practice is very different.

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