Carrying Around Questions

Lately, I’ve been carrying around two sets of questions. One set is for teaching and one set is for leading . . . and they mix together when I’m doing a bit of both.

For teaching, I ask myself a set of questions I boiled down from a summer of thinking about the purpose of my AP Language class, a class focused on rhetoric:

  • Will this help us to know one another better?
  • Will this bring us closer to (the joy of) language?
  • Will this help us to reverse-engineer great arguments in order to both understand why they work and to write them ourselves?

For leading I ask myself a set of questions that I saw recently in the Klingenstein Center’s annual report. They come, word-for-word, from Nicole Furlonge’s introduction:

  • Who is in the room — and in the teaching and leading pipeline?
  • What ways of knowing have we valued, and what fields and bodies of knowledge have we muted in our curriculum?
  • What ideas do we amplify?

I use these questions when I’m planning activities for my students and my colleagues. They help me to remove and streamline. They help me to make hard choices.

I also use these questions — keep them in front of me — when I’m in the middle of activities with my students and my colleagues. They help me to guide conversations, to avoid digressions, and to honor the time, energy, and attention that we have.

I’ll swap out questions as I go along; I’ll refine questions that aren’t generative enough. Regardless, I’ve found that this added layer of intentionality has helped me to keep putting one foot in front of the other this school year, and equally important, to help others do the same.

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