***Post written by Howard Wakkinen, Conference Graduate Credit Chair for WSPA***

Will you marry me? This question is meant to get you engaged! 😉 Fellow educators and leaders (i.e., all school personnel, including but not limited to, teachers, specialists, principals, school psychologists, counselors, etc.), as you make the choice to “engage” in this topic, I invite you to reflect on where you are at in your career. Stay with me here and do not stop reading due to my “pun-filled” personality. When someone pops the question, they become engaged to be married. Engagement signifies a commitment of love and loyalty for any couple who enters this phase of the courting process. Similarly, when someone is in love with their career and enjoys what they are doing on a daily basis, they are highly engaged in their work. Are you engaged in your work? Do you love the work you do? Do you bring with you an excitement, passion, and energy that lets others know you are engaged in your work?

Dr. Kanold (in his book HEART!) defines engagement as the following: “the emotional energy and discretionary effort you give to students, the school, and district and to their vision for improved student learning” (2017, p. 64). I like that  Kanold mentions both an emotional energy and (discretionary) effort in his personal definition of engagement. Over the past decade or so, I have noticed that those educators who bring forth a positive emotional energy and put forth their best effort (and then they extend themselves above and beyond the norm or they give of their discretionary effort) are those who are making the biggest difference in the lives of students. Do not misunderstand my words here. I believe all educators make a difference in the lives of students (for better or worse), but those who make the BIGGEST, constructive difference are those who bring a positive emotional energy and put forth discretionary effort day in and day out. They make that extra phone call home or swing by a colleague’s classroom to check in with them. They schedule meetings with parents and/or colleagues to ensure they are on the right track to best support students (or one another). They take a stand or speak up when students or colleagues are not getting what they need to be successful (even when the principal is not present). Those are the types of educators who inspire, are fun to be around, and professionally challenge the status quo. Again, I ask, are you fully engaged? If so, what will you continue to do to recharge your batteries and strive to always make a positive impact on your students and colleagues? Who is your “go to” when you need an honest opinion? Who will challenge you in an encouraging manner?

Lastly, let’s explore the deeper WHY of being fully engaged and striving to be a fully formed professional. As we are fully engaged and serve to the best of our abilities, we leave a “heartprint” on others (Kanold, 2017). As I am not even half way through Kanold’s book, I read his words and feel like we speak the same language. I could not agree more with his concept of leaving a heartprint on those with whom we interact. This heartprint can be positive or negative, the choice on what type of influence we leave is up to each of us. We have such a grave responsibility to advocate for what is best for students and their future. We get to teach, support, and build the next generation through the work we do. Why not choose to be like all those who have left a positive heartprint on us? Who has left a helpful heartprint on your life? How would your life be different without their influence? Think of your students and colleagues for a moment. Without your encouragement and influence, your students and colleagues may not be on a path that will help them find success. Let us all find the courage and make the choice to be fully engaged, fully formed professionals in order to leave an impactful heartprint on any and all those we encounter in this great work.

**Disclaimer: I am not related to nor am I affiliated with Dr. Kanold. I do not work for the publishing company and will not receive royalties for recommending his book, HEART!. If you want to reflect on your own impact as an education professional, I would highly recommend this book (ISBN 978-1-943874-43-9). It is a slower read because Kanold asks you to reflect, rate yourself, ponder, reflect some more, and write throughout the book. (It would be a great book study to do as a special education team or as a professional learning community.) The choice is yours… Thank you all for the work you do with students, families, and school personnel – You make a difference!