Socrates gave us the key to powerful education more than 2,000 years ago. Questions, challenging questions, should drive learning. Creativity in science, history, journalism, and math comes from asking insightful questions. I love to tell kids the story of Isador Isaac Rabi (1898-1988) who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1944 for his discovery of magnetic resonance, the science behind the mri scan. He claimed in his Nobel lecture that he owed his success in science to his mother. Every day, when he came home from school she would ask him, “What good question did you ask today?” So, I’m going to give you a few good questions for you to ask in assessing the learning of your children and the effectiveness of your schools:
Here’s a question I’ve been asking my grandchildren and other school-age kids: Who among your teachers do you think is having fun teaching you? By “fun,” I mean that you can tell that the teacher wants to be in the room with you, is engaged in the subject and cares that you are also engaged.
My grandson, Jonny, had to think a long time before he came up with his sixth grade Language Arts teacher. (He was in seventh grade at the time.) A tenth grader could only think of his young technology teacher. When I asked him why he accepted this status quo, he shrugged and said, “It is what it is.” He goes to a highly rated high school in an upscale neighborhood.
A follow-up to this question is: How do you know that a teacher isn’t having any fun teaching you? Jonny had an instant reply to this one: “Because I’m not learning very much.”
Here’s a question for teachers: What would it take for you to be the teacher you always dreamed of being? Their answers may be a better assessment than the “value-added” measures attached to student scores.
Not to ignore administrators: How can you expect teachers to teach critical thinking if they are not allowed to ask challenging questions about executing their jobs in a school system?
And while we’re at it, here’s one for the test creators: Since you’re using our work as the basis for your tests, why don’t you let us children’s nonfiction authors take them? We should be able to ace them with flying colors, right? What would it mean if we flunked? I have absolutely no way of knowing how I’d do.
I’m just asking........