Today Contributor: Lisa Wenske
Lisa Wenske teaches 1st Grade Teacher in Austin, Texas. She enjoys running and movies. ☺
This semester our school faculty is reading a book which emphasizes and explains how we can all, Innovate Inside the Box. George Couros and Katie Novak, the authors, provide examples of and reasons for making an impact in all that we do as educators to promote student empowerment. Though I’ve only read the book’s first few chapters so far, I utilized an idea suggested by the authors and asked my students 5 important questions at the start of the school year. I coupled these questions alongside other Student Learner Profiles that I implemented with my lovely First Graders. This was all in effort to more closely explore how I can learn about and from students; foster, modify and tailor my instruction and teaching towards their wants and needs more specifically and successfully; and determine how I can focus on and utilize student strengths, passions and interests to more capably serve them.
The 5 questions Mr. Couros and Ms. Novak propose are (Couros & Novak, 2019):
- What are the qualities you look for in a teacher?
- What are you passionate about? (emphasis is mine)
- What is one BIG question you have for this year?
- What are your strengths, and how can we utilize them?
- What does success at the end of the year look like to you?
I displayed these questions via Google Slides and handed out page sets of them so that my students could answer each as I explained with a bit of elaboration and exampling to facilitate understanding. The hope here is that by my more pronounced and explicit approach to learn directly from my students about what they want and need as well as what they feel their strengths are—that this could help direct my year in a more successful and inspirational (for students) direction. Additionally, through work like this, there’s hope that students may begin to better understand themselves and how they best learn and interact with the world. So far, I do think that students have already begun to feel more valued and connected to our work in our classroom in part because of activities like these—where they can tell me what is most helpful and important to them. In the past, I quite possibly relied too heavily on questionnaires and sentence stems I provided to parents to tell me about their children; rather than having students report this information directly to me. Though, of course, I also always rely on constant and continual interactions I have with students and on their work and comments throughout each day to understand such items. I am a bit embarrassed that something so obvious (i.e., having students communicate their strengths, interests, wants and goals straight and clearly to me) took this long to materialize more fully in my classroom as a beginning of the year process. Yet we move forward and try to live, teach and be better each moment…
If you’d like to read more about questions and the usefulness of questioning, you might try:
-Couros’ blog post about the 5 Questions, linked here: georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/7552
-A blog post by Jasmine Morrow about self reflection questions for teachers:
-A great book, Leading with Questions by Michael Marquardt, about utilizing questions that applies to business and life in general can be found here: academia.edu/28463086/Leading_with_questions
Good luck, and thanks!!! lisa ☺
Couros, G. & Novak, K. (2019). Innovate inside the box: empowering learners through UDL and “The Innovator’s Mindset.” San Diego, CA: IMpress.
Marquardt, M. J. (2014). Leading with questions: how leaders ﬁnd the right solutions by knowing what to ask (Revised and updated edition). 1 online resource. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from: https://www.academia.edu/28463086/Leading_with_questions
Morrow, J. (2019, January 17). Self-reflection questions teachers should ask themselves [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.cecreditsonline.org/blogs/news/self-reflection-questions-teachers-should-ask-themselves