A few weeks ago my family and I traveled to Colorado for fly fishing, white water rafting, hiking, camping, and just a ton of fun. We were in the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs when I encountered two student groups of about the same age. There was a teacher with each group. The first group's teacher was a middle aged woman who was saying things like, "Hey! Pay attention! Get over here and read this. You aren't paying attention." She looked frazzled and so tired. It was hot! The kids were all over the entrance area.
The second teacher was a young man who was trying to manage the obviously hyper student in the class to stay with the group. I smiled as I watch this teacher calmly say, "Hey guys! Brian here wants to read this monument to you. I want you to listen and then you will talk to your partner about what you think we will see in the park." Brian, of course, was the hyper student. The teacher stood right by him and helped him through the passage with head nods and encouraging words. The students all listened. The teacher said, "Man! Brian, you did a great job! Everyone, clap for Brian. I am so proud of you guys. I want to hear all of your ideas. Who wants to share?" Needless to say the kids were all paying attention and ready to share. I watched the two groups throughout the walk. Group One was often scattered and running around. The teacher was appeared frustrated. Group Two was engaged and the kids were constantly trying to get the teacher's attention to share something they had discovered.
I am always amazed how simple it is to get children to engage in learning. The secret is some encouragement and a little positive feedback. With some a little extra attention is needed, but the rewards are pointless. I can tell you both teachers were really tired when they went home that night, but one smiled as he drifted off to sleep.