What Did You Learn in School Today?

This is a bad question to ask a child after a day at school, for a multitude of reasons.

Firstly, a day in school is a pretty emotional and draining experience for many children. As a result, by the time the school day gets over the child is mentally frazzled and needs time, space and ideally sleep, to enable them to mentally process al the knowledge and information they’ve taken in.

It’s commonly a frustration to parents that their child seems to remember more about the social aspects of what happened in school, than the academic learning. it may even cause some parents to fear that academically their child isn’t learning very much. He or she can tell you lots about who did what to whom, who said what to a teacher and got away with it, who got punished for what etc. The plain reality is that the social elements and aspects of school are incredibly important to our children. We shouldn’t underestimate how many important skills are being developed through these social interactions – skills that will be vital in adulthood.

Another problem with the question is that the learning experiences of the day are so broad and various that the child is hard pressed to figure out which bits, which elements we the adults might consider most important or want us to share with them. Plainly, the child knows that they’re not expected to give a verbatim report of everything they saw, heard, felt or experienced (and all their judgements and reflections) during the day.

It’s known that a lot of learning isn’t really ‘mine’ until I’ve slept to process it and take full ownership of the memories. This is another reason why such a question can prove challenging.

For many parents, so far, this will all be very unsatisfying. As attentive, keen and diligent parents they want to know that they can show an interest in their child’s learning, ensure their child is maintaining focus and effort and check that their educators are doing their job.

The question becomes – “Well, if that’s not the right question, then what is?”

The following article may contain the germ of an answer.

The British Psychological Society Digest – Could the Way we Talk to Children Help Them Remember Their Science Lessons?

This makes a lot of sense to me. Intuitively, it’s what I often tended to do with my own son when he was younger. It also, as a generalisation, is a line of questioning taken more often by mothers than fathers. I wonder whether the nature of the questions asked, the child’s vocalisation of the answers all serve to provide extra focus for when the child sleeps, enabling better absorption of the learning and greater access for recall later.

Whatever the explanation, I believe this merits more research and in the meantime is a habit worth adopting by parents.

Why Do I Lead?

Why Do I Lead?

This is probably the single most important question that a school principal must ask themselves – and keep asking themselves. When the answers come back with clarity, then all is pointing in the right direction. When the answers are harder to come by, that’s when the leader needs to look inside to discover what’s out of alignment.

Questions are powerful and educators have long known this. Teachers spend a lot of time asking questions. Modern, effective teachers spend more time helping children to ask great questions, having recognised that this leads to greater quality learning. Likewise, the best school leaders know that asking themselves the right, best questions and reflecting on the answers is a key part of achieving and being successful.

So, this is why I’ve added a new book to my ‘To Read’ list. It’s a new book out through ASCD, from a New Jersey, USA school leader named Baruti Kafele entitled, “The Principal 50:Critical Leadership Questions For Inspiring Schoolwide Excellence”

Here’s a page that carries a brief overview about the book, a short video presentation by the author, and five visuals of the basic 50 questions which are elaborated on in the book. Personally, I don’t intend to wait to get and read the book, but intend to start challenging myself to reflect on some of these questions as I move forward in the coming weeks.

ASCD – Book Overview – The Principal 50

Already, as I studied the 50 questions, the strongest thought running through my mind is that as critical as reflection on the questions is, they are really worth very little and will bring scant benefits within schools unless they are followed up with time committed to communication with others and action. Without performance and action, these questions would be largely a self indulgent exercise in navel gazing.

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