Sitting to Comply, or Moving to Engage?



Classroom management.  Simply mentioning this phrase to someone in the education world spikes adrenaline levels for good or for bad. Buzz words, terms, concepts are drilled into the mindset of teachers to the point that offering support, recommending suggestions, or admitting an area of improvement can foster a distaste toward any change, even the smallest of modifications.

Somewhere, somehow, and for some reason, it has become engrained into the image of an orderly classroom that students should be quietly working independently or in a group with little to no elevation of voice or movement leading observers to believe that students are engaged with the lessons. The perception of a well-managed classroom is one with students raising their hands to answer teacher-directed questions in an almost quiet and still classroom.  While there may be few behavior problems, sitting and complying are not actions that necessarily translate to engagement.

The question observers need to ask is are students truly engage, or are they simply complying to a system that encourages perfectly behaved individuals.

Of course, this is an exaggeration of some classrooms, and compliance is not necessarily a  negative outcome in classrooms. However, teachers need to understand what engagement really looks like, and they need to be willing to take risks to increase the level of engagement of their students.

I love classrooms with organized chaos. Seeing students physically moving, participating in dynamic discussions, working with others in collaborative projects, and escalating in their excitement levels motivates me to want to be in the classroom. However, even in an exciting environment, it is important to ask whether or not students are engaged in the learning process.

Since research has shown that physical movement helps reduce stress and anxiety levels in students, and adding physical movement activities can improve academic performance, I believe it is necessary to add opportunities for students to get up and move. Teachers, in fear of a classroom management mishap, should overcome such fears and take a risk in the world of stiff compliance. Getting students to walk around to take notes, stand and sit to answer questions, move while in a discussion, or switch positions periodically with a class period are all simple actions that help focus and direct students while prompting them toward making thinking connections to specific learning targets.

When teachers begin to regularly add movement to their classrooms, things will change. Students will change. The environment will change. Compliance may still exist. Engagement may increase. It is within reach. Literally.