Teacher Engagement – Leaders – and the Netgens

As educators, we so often talk about student engagement and what it really means to be engaged.

According to Wikipedia – Student engagement occurs when “students make a psychological investment in learning. They try hard to learn what school offers. They take pride not simply in earning the formal indicators of success (grades), but in understanding the material and incorporating or internalizing it in their lives.” (Link)

In a classroom with kids, engagement requires a rich inquiry based learning environment. Every students needs a purpose and every student needs to to feel safe to make mistakes. Collaboration is essential in discovery and learning as is presenting to an authentic audience.

As an educator, teacher engagement has become essential to my practice. In fact, If I am not fully and authentically engaged in what I am doing, my performance in the classroom becomes dull, tedious and lacking in richness – similar to what happens to my students, when they aren’t fully engaged.

What if we changed the word “student” to “teacher” in the above definition? Would the research, and arguments also prove true?

After reflecting on this myself and, addressing this issue (teacher engagement) with friends, colleagues and my PLN, I discovered that the expectations of professional development, teacher training, staff meetings and committee meetings differ greatly – not depending just on age and generations, but also on one’s involvement with learning outside their immediate organization.

Overwhelming, teachers want choice, freedom, integrity and openness, entertainment and play, collaboration and relationship building and to be innovators themselves. Sound familiar? These characteristics are what Don Tapscott presents in his book, “Growing Up Digital” as the eight common attributes pertaining to the “Netgens”.

I am not a “Netgen”. I am considered, “Generation X”. However, I am immersed in a ‘Netgen’ culture and the attributes I listed above are applicable to how I life my life both professionally and personally.

I believe strongly that if teacher professional development and training were aligned with the characteristics presented by Tapscott, teacher engagement would increase, resulting in overwhelming openness and willingness to embrace new methods of teaching.

It is my hope that principals and leaders across our districts assess their own level of engagement and recognize that they will benefit greatly by democratizing their staff and embracing the 21st Century as it pertains to teacher training.

As an adult instructor myself this year, I am going to make it a priority to use the NETS*t as my guidelines. I do have an advantage, however. I am coming from what I would consider a 21st Century fluent classroom – student centered, differentiated, collaborative and one which prioritizes a universal learning environment. So I offer these suggestions to my fellow instructional leaders:

1) Do not start the first staff meeting of the year with a Power Point Of course, you have ‘house keeping’ business to take care of and your due diligence with informing staff is priority. Model new strategies, new skills, new fluencies. Inspire and Engage your staff from the beginning.

– Create a Wikispace and show staff how to sign in. You can call this the “Staff Room Wiki”. Staff can sign in at any time, any place and view the house keeping business, rules, timelimes.


– Like kids, your staff wants to enjoy what the are doing. Consider creating a COLLABORATIVE google doc, or form for staff to work on during the staff meeting. MAKE IT FUN.

– Consider starting a backhannel – http://www.todaysmeet.com/ – Pick one or two of your staff to ask questions throughout the meeting. Shy teachers or those who don’t participate often may be more willing to use a backchannel.

– Invite an expert to SKYPE into your staff meeting. There are MANY amazing leaders out there. JUST ASK.

2) Think – is there a better way to provide your staff information that is quick and to the point then through EMAIL?

– Open a SECURE school TWITTER account. Only your staff is approved to see posts. Again, this method of communication is quick, easy and collaborative. Learn how to use a #TAG. Promote ongoing, sustainable discussions.

3) Start the first staff meeting by showing your staff YOUR NEW BLOG. Even if it is the first, “Welcome” entry- Your staff wants authenticity, integrity and openness. Show them how it is done. Guaranteed, they will connect this to their own teaching practice. Be a model.

4) Survey your staff – find out who they are. As a classroom teacher, differentiated instruction DEPENDS on knowing the students. Do the same with your teachers. Ask them what kind of PD they want – ask for their input. You can use a Google Form for this.

5) Be willing to ask an expert – even if that expert happens to be a first year teacher. Many companies have had huge successes after using new staff as part of their leadership and decision making structures. These teachers are also coming with an advantage. They are the digital genaration.



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5 Replies to “Teacher Engagement – Leaders – and the Netgens”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Teacher Engagement – Leaders – and the Netgens | PIPEDREAMS -- Topsy.com

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  3. Zoe, I agree that we need to engage the staff at meetings. However, I would like to suggest that instead of offering distractions like the backchannel discussions, get them involved and have the meetings focus on learning – of students and teachers – where they are engaged as part learner/part leader. Turn staff meetings into learning sessions where a small percentage is spent on the information flow and a majority is spent on sharing of ideas and learning new techniques/strategies for teaching and learning. There will always the need for some info sharing and staff decision making but much of it can be done via different means.

    For the past 5 years I’ve been using a wiki to communicate with staff and share information. I’ve become better at sending out information that they need to know through this method and I’ve worked to have teachers use this as their one place for sharing information – like the school calendar with all school activities is located there so everyone knows what is happening. The one problem is that teachers/staff sometimes resist and are slow on the adoption path which makes it very frustrating as they are then not getting the information they need – they are so use to having it delivered to them at a staff meeting – like some students, some teachers don’t want to have to look for it.

    As for Tapscott’s eight descriptors, I would suggest they apply to not just the NetGen’s. I, too, am a supposed GenX but if I look at the descriptors ” choice, freedom, integrity and openness, entertainment and play, collaboration and relationship building and to be innovators themselves.” I see that they speak to a much larger group than just the NetGen’s. They speak to how most people, I think, want to be treated. If teachers are treated as professionals, then the need to always lead them diminishes as they develop and become leaders themselves.

    Thanks for the post – it was very thoughtful and provides a great deal for administrators to think about. Have a great year.

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Teacher Engagement – Leaders – and the Netgens | PIPEDREAMS -- Topsy.com

  5. Thanks for the reply Kelly- It sounds like you have a pretty innovative leadership style. I really like your style – getting teachers into work groups, turning the staff meetings into learning sessions – with less emphasis on information flow and more on sharing of ideas and learning new techniques. This style of shared leadership needs to be more widely discussed and implemented at a more widespread scale. I agree, Tapscott’s descriptors would describe any motivated learner – and would describe many of the people in my own PLN (who I’m sure are much older then the Netgen).
    It is interesting, what you described as your experiences with teachers using the wikispaces productively. I guess, like anything, it takes time.
    Thanks for your insights on this.

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