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Excellent teachers don’t develop full-blown at graduation; nor are they just “born teachers.” Instead, teachers are always in the process of “becoming.” They continually discover who they are and what they stand for, through their dialogue with peers, through ongoing and consistent study, and through deep reflection about their craft. — Sonia Nieto (2009, p.125)

The pressure of current educational mandates has challenged teachers to find creative solutions to complex problems and to reexamine the conditions that impact student learning. This inquiry has led to practices, initiatives and approaches that focus not only on instruction, but also on how we can engage students in new ways so they are ready and able to learn. As individual teachers and schools have implemented these approaches and seen powerful results, a new movement in education has begun to take shape. This movement, in which we can all take part, invites us each to participate in transforming education from the inside out — through our own individual teaching practice, classroom methodologies and professional relationships with colleagues.

From our perspective, this emerging movement acknowledges the:

  1. powerful impact of a teacher’s presence in the classroom;
  2. importance of student engagement and participation in learning;
  3. critical role of relationships and cultural contexts within a classroom and school; and
  4. ways social, emotional and academic learning are inextricably connected.

Engaged Teaching is a life-long practical approach to teaching and learning that improves social, emotional and academic outcomes and fosters a sense of meaning, purpose, and motivation in the classroom. The practices and principles are designed to be integrated into any classroom and to transform and improve how we teach and how we engage with our students and colleagues. At the heart of the Engaged Teaching Approach are the five dimensions of engaged teaching:


Each of the dimensions of engaged teaching includes practices and principles that support educators to develop a more intentional, rewarding and effective teaching practice and support students to think creatively and critically, excel academically, manage their emotions, communicate effectively, and work with people who are different from themselves. These are the 21st century skills and capacities that young people need to survive and thrive in our complex world.

Cultivating an Open Heart

Expressing warmth, kindness, care, compassion; cultivating connection (teacher-student and student-student); and intentionally engaging in practices that build trusting, inclusive learning communities

Engaging the Self-Observer

Cultivating the aspect of ourselves that can notice, observe, and then reflect on our thoughts, beliefs, biases, emotions, and actions to make more conscious choices about our actions; includes fostering self-observation or “self-science” in students as well

Being Present

Engaging in the ongoing process of bringing attention to the present moment and learning to manage distractions so we can be responsive, aware, focused, and creative in the classroom; includes supporting students to develop learning readiness—the capacity to pay attention, focus, and engage

Establishing Respectful Boundaries

Respectfully establishing clear and compassionate boundaries for ourselves (self-discipline) and with others—in the classroom and in our school communities; includes supporting students and the learning community with a proactive approach to classroom management

Developing Emotional Capacity

Developing emotional intelligence, expanding our emotional range, and cultivating emotional boundaries so we can effectively address a range of feeling states in ourselves and others ; includes supporting students in developing their capacity to express and manage emotions

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