This morning I began my day with our monthly staff meeting. We try to take the opportunity during these meetings to extend our own learning as a group of teachers. It is always a richer experience to attend a staff meeting where learning and sharing occurs. In small break out groups, we discussed the idea of student engagement. There are many ways that we can view how we engage our students in the lessons we design and teach.

This evening I experienced engaging moments. Our fifth grade students ended their first day of the Washington DC trip by visiting the 9-11 Memorial at the Pentagon. Walking through the memorial is an experience, one that I encourage everyone who visits our Nation’s Capitol to visit. But it was observing our students engaged with parents and teachers that was so powerful. Parents walked in partnership or in small groups with students talking and sharing story. Students asked many questions. Teachers masterfully talked about the metaphors around us.

Through making this real connection on the grounds of a historical moment in our nation’s history, students learned in a deep way what happened just years before they were born. Students engaged in different parts of the experience. Some students touched and felt the rocks. Some students needed to count and do math. Some students needed to read each person’s name. Some students walked only around the memorial’s edges. Some students just watched as others walked more deeply through the benches and trees.

Student engagement can be through the behaviors we experience, the cognitive interaction or the emotional affective moments. This evening was putting into practice our discussion from the morning.