Student Engagement: Appropriate Prepositions

by | Mar 17, 2016 | Parent Engagement, Student Engagement, Youth Voice

I am an advocate of student engagement and hear the relationships between students and adults in schools described in many ways.  Most often, from my experience, these include the use of a preposition or two.

A preposition, according to Google, is a word governing, and usually preceding, a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element in the clause.

I am not sure I have focused on prepositions since my middle school English classes when we were required to diagram sentences and as I remember prepositions were written on diagonal lines.  Like prepositions I have not thought about diagramming sentences in a very long time, until a couple of years ago when my colleague Betty Edwards challenged me to diagram an objective I co-created in a strategic plan.  Needless to say I had a hard time achieving her goal, but found the exercise enlightening and realized maybe something I learned over 50 years ago actually has implications today.

Let’s get back to the connection between student engagement and prepositions.  As I hear the diverse descriptions of how students and adults interact in school I am pleased to hear prepositions that, to me, reflect engagement strategies I encourage and disappointed when I hear prepositions I find less appropriate.

For example I hear the following prepositions that I believe most representative of positive collaborative and effective student engagement:

  • Along
  • Amid
  • Among
  • Around
  • Beside
  • For
  • Plus
  • Toward
  • With

If we put each of these prepositions into the following sentence In our school students and adults engage ___ each other you can see how the common mutually beneficial relationship exists. For example, In our school students and adults engage with each other, or In our school students and adults engage beside each other.

Now let me share a list of prepositions I find less representative of the most effective type of student engagement:

  • Against
  • Below
  • Beneath
  • Opposite
  • Over
  • Under
  • Unlike
  • To
  • Versus

Reflective of these prepositions are sentences such as In our school students and adults engage opposite each other or In our school students and adults engage against each other.

I encourage us to consider the characteristics we desire as students and adults in schools engage together and which prepositions should describe these interactions.  For sure prepositions are a minor element of a sentence but they do express the relationship among elements, and in the case of student engagement the elements are individuals that co-exist within a school.

Let’s use prepositions to define our preferences for student engagement and as benchmarks along the journey to student and adult effective collaborations.

Terry Pickeral
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Terry Pickeral

Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.
Terry Pickeral
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