Are You Asking This Question?

This story is making headlines: a teacher looking to build relationships with her students and gain some fresh ideas for engaging them. She asked her third graders to finish this sentence: I wish my teacher knew…

The children filled in the blank with information about what keeps them up at night, what they want to be when they grow up, why they can’t complete their homework at home, why they are sad at recess.

I wish my teacher knew I don't have pencils at home to do my homework.

I wish my teacher knew sometimes my reading log isn’t signed because my mom isn’t around a lot.

In one sentence, before our eyes, we understand why teaching and learning is not so simple; why creating lesson plans that are aligned with objectives that are aligned with standards that are aligned with assessments is important, critical even, but that without knowing what our students need us to know and meeting them there, they might never reach those well-designed lesson plans.

This teacher saw the opportunity immediately. She met them there: a chance to not only build relationships with her students, but among them.

A chance for students to fill in the blanks for each other.

"Building community in my classroom is a major goal of this lesson. After one student shared that she had no one to play with at recess, the rest of the class chimed in and said, 'we got your back.' The next day during recess, I noticed she was playing with a group of girls. Not only can I support my students, but my students can support each other."

This strategy isn’t unique to this teacher. There are many teachers who ask children to complete similar prompts, respond to questions for the same kinds of reasons. But this particular story has caught on.

"I think it caught on so fast because teachers are highly collaborative and freely share and explore resources," Schwartz says. "In the end, all teachers want to support their students, and #iwishmyteacherknew is a simple and powerful way to do that.

And of course there is an indicator for this: All teachers interact socially with their students (noticing and attending to an ill student, asking about the weekend, inquiring about the family).

It is simple—no need to over think; but it is powerful: an opportunity for our students to tell us what they wish we knew, what they need us to know.

But let’s not stop there.

We can also do this in our Leadership Teams and in our Instructional Teams. Last week, Mark published an article from Fast Company titled “…How Asking the Right Questions Will Make You A Better Boss.” 

The article was written by a movie producer who has had lots of success in the movie industry and in managing the success of several different types of people and projects. As educators, we probably have more in common with movie producers than we might think. And I can’t help but wonder how these two stories—one about a teacher asking her students what they wished she knew and the other about a movie producer relying on questioning to lead and manage for success—relate.

Because I think they do.

Bosses, leadership team members…are you asking your team members what they think? What questions they have? If there is a better way?

Are you asking them what they wish you knew?

“Questions create both the authority in people to come up with ideas and take action and the responsibility for moving things forward. Questions create the space for all kinds of ideas and the sparks to come up with those ideas. Most important, questions send a very clear message: We’re willing to listen, even to ideas or suggestions or problems we weren’t expecting.”

We can build community right here, fill in the blanks for each other starting now. What question do you have? What do you wish we knew? What do you wish your team knew? Leave your reply in the comment section below and (or) hop on twitter and use the following hashtag. #aquestionihaveis 

Additional Resources:

All teachers interact socially with their students—the research

Why the Personal Competencies Matter

Wait until you hear what got this kid talking

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