Principal’s Blog, 11th June 2018 – The Quest for the Magic Bullet – Part 3 – Asking Questions

The Quest for the Magic Bullet – Part 3 – Asking Questions

Teachers who really make a difference (and parents/carers) are very skilful in asking questions that stimulate and empower the young people they interact with.

At the other end of the spectrum are teachers and parents/carers that believe children learn by being told what to do. Telling has its place, it’s quick and efficient, but it also has many weaknesses. If you consistently tell a young person what to do they will have a tendency to be become overly reliant on you. Teaching and parenting is in many ways about making yourself redundant as the youngsters develop into independent adults, who can care for themselves and others in their community.

A parent who tells their child each morning to get themselves dressed, brush their teeth, eat their breakfast and pack their bags will succeed in keeping themselves busy for a very long time and potentially condemn their own child to a lifetime of waiting for instructions.  Conversely the parent who asks successively more subtle prompting, coaching questions such as, “what do you need to do tomorrow morning to get ready for school?” or “What do you need to do to ensure that your homework is really good this week?” can expect their child to be more reflective and independent.  Of course this comes at a price, on occasions the young person will not come up with the right answer (or if they do may not act upon it) and this is where the teacher/ parent needs to make a choice, step in and hope they listen and learn or let them learn from their own mistakes.

The high stakes education system unfortunately pushed lots of schools to a place where children could not be seen to fail. Hazeley fell into this trap for a while, teachers going above and beyond to tell students exactly what to do to pass their exams, if they did not do it teachers put on additional sessions, called home and put on yet more session. The students passed their exams; Hazeley was towards the top of the school league tables, but at what price?

Many of our students left without fully learning some important lessons about self reliance. In the past few years we have encouraged our students to be more reflective, take more responsibility for their own learning, our exam results have remained strong and the young people leaving us have more than their fair share of Character, Confidence and Creativity.

To conclude:

  • Instead of telling your child what do to try asking them questions which will help them find the answers for themselves.
  • Ask the questions early enough so that they have time to reflect before they need to act.
  • Don’t be scared to let them fail, this is where the best learning often happens. Encourage them to aim to do really well as opposed to avoiding failing. Help them aim high.
  • Reward them with positive feedback (a smile/ praise /your attention) for asking intelligent questions, being reflective, proactive and independent.
  • Try to create opportunities for these questions and reflections to take place. The dinner table can be an ideal starting point, turning off the internet at home often magically creates more family time.
  • Be a brave parent, don’t push your child to be normal or perfect, (one of them is boring the other impossible) help them to grow into amazing versions of themselves.

Again sorry, no magic bullet, but hopefully some simple, useful guidance on helping your child to be successful at school and beyond.

Mr Nelson
Principal

ZTN photo Nelson