One of the education blogs I follow is The Principal of Change by George Couros. A Canadian educator and consultant, a former principal, and author of The Innovator’s Mindset, he writes with passion and compassion. Like me, he believes in the central role of good relationships between learner and teacher. This graphic is his, and it accompanied a blog about how to start the school year with questions like these. He suggests that we each find the questions that would be most meaningful to our group of learners, because asking them and paying attention to the answers will be powerful in building the relationships requisite to learning.
I love this idea, and for several years I did start the school year with a set of questions like these. I asked students for written, signed responses, but I took it a step further. I actually invited them to ask a set of questions of me. I then printed a set of my responses to their questions comm, and I added personal notes responding to their comments individually. They knew they were seen and heard. They knew I was willing to invest time in them. They knew more about me than just the rumors that I was really tough!
I really liked this process, probably more than the students did — or at least more than they would admit! I’m not sure why I gave it up: probably time, since there’s never enough, and the need to experiment with other approaches, since I tried to find a way to begin each course with community-building.
But revisiting this concept reminds me of several points:
- Teachers need time for community-building, regardless of the strategy they choose, and that time usually pays off in the long run.
- The inch-deep mile-long lockstep curriculum, if it is unavoidable [sigh], would be well advised to build in time for this.
- When teachers get to plan together, they are more likely to be able to generate powerful community-building strategies than when they work as lone rangers.
You wouldn’t build a house with a proper foundation; you wouldn’t pave a road without preparing the underpinning. Why do we blunder directly into instruction without laying this footing?