You can’t talk about engagement in learning without noting the huge number of children who are diagnosed with attention deficits in a school setting.
Alan Schwarz and Sarah Cohen, writing for The New York Times, report:
Nearly one in five high school age boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (read more of the March 31, 2013 NYT report on ADHD here)
They quote doctors who are concerned that normal childhood behaviors are being pathologized because children acting like children is not as conducive to classroom management as children “sitting quietly at their desks.” Continue reading
We hear it all the time — kids being told to pay attention.
From an adult’s point of view, this really means — think about what I am telling you to think about.
And when kids don’t look like they are thinking about whatever is on the adult’s agenda, they are said to be “not paying attention.”
In a school setting, these kids may not fit common descriptions of engagement, such as those offered by school principal Ben Johnson, which I featured on my Rules of Engagement page. I think Johnson makes good points about what engagement can look like in a classroom, but over my years of homeschooling, I’ve become aware that kids can also be extremely engaged in learning even when they do not have the appearance of “paying attention” that adults expect.
I’ve also realized that looking engaged takes its own energy and focus, and that kids in a homeschooling setting can have the luxury of not looking engaged, if their parents allow for it.