Starting with Questions

download-3When reading through my notes from a recent teacher observation, I realized that all the feedback was very direct and it was only from my perspective – solutions and strategies that I have used in the past or resources I found online and thought would work well.

I decided to reword my feedback, and turn it into questions.  The result has been amazing.  Now,  when I meet with teachers, rather than telling them what I think they should do, I ask them to share what they think might work.

For example, when observing a first grade writing workshop, I noticed that a few students were having trouble getting started writing after the mini-lesson. Once they returned to their seats, they seemed a bit lost.  In the past, I have used a checklist that students would put at their table or in their notebook to remind them of what to do.  I made a note to suggest this to the teacher.  But instead of making this suggestion, I turned it into a question: How can we help students remember what to do when they return to their seat?

And, the teacher came up with brilliant solutions (not a checklist!) that are more meaningful and relevant to his class – and it is more meaningful to him because he is the one that came up with them.  Even if his solutions didn’t work, I think it is still more beneficial for me to ask questions and encourage teachers to find their own answers.

It isn’t always easy, for me or teachers.  Sometimes I ask a question and the teacher responds, “I don’t know – you’re the expert.”  But, showing them that I trust them to find the answer is helping to build stronger relationships, and showing them that I will be there for support builds their confidence to try something new.

I can’t assume that all teachers should be following the same strategies that I think are best.  Asking questions like “why,” “what if,” and “how” will help both me and my colleagues find new, innovative strategies and solutions.


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