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      Engagement is where children learn. A child can watch and listen, but they can, and often do, watch and listen without really learning. When we can get a child engaged, and help them become a part of the environment and part of the experience, they will learn; they will put what they learn in their mind in a much more stable way. They will grasp it at the level of understanding that we want for them. They will retain what they learn and be able to reuse it.

     Sometimes students who come to AIE in their later school years do what they have learned to do in other schools: they wait for the teacher to give them information. They're satisfied with simply hearing it or reading it. But to actually raise their hand and offer insight, to ask good questions, to answer questions, is really difficult for them. Sometimes it's because they are so capable and because reading and writing are their security, that teachers have let them identify themselves that way alone; as long as they did the work that was assigned to them, their teachers let them stay in their very narrow area of comfort. That is a mistake, because when students do that, turn completely inward, they are not really needed in the classroom.

      We want kids to know that they are needed in the classroom, that the teacher needs their engagement and their participation, and their classmates need their engagement and participation. That’s a feeling all children need in their lives—they need to feel needed. That gives them the foundation for a strong sense of self-worth. Engagement—getting them to engage—is one of the ways that we can show them they are needed.

      One way to engage students in class is to ask questions. The problem is, is that some kids are very quick in answering questions, so others get used to just sitting and waiting for those kids to answer the questions. They don’t get to engage, so they feel they are not needed. At AIE, we ask questions in class in a way that lets everyone answer, rather than just the quick, confident ones, and lets all children feel needed.

     Everything about the way we conduct classes at AIE is designed to give everyone the chance to engage, participate, and so to feel needed.

by John Savage, Founder of The Academy for Individual Excellence
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