Sage Advice Indeed
Around last March, I acquired a subscription to Edutopia, a magazine published by the George Lucas Educational Foundation and that is free for teachers.
I picked up this month's issue and was thumbing through while I was making dinner, and my eyes settled upon the Sage Advice column, where the question of the month was "What's the most commonly asked question in the classroom?"
I laughed long and loud at one response:
Most frequently asked question: "Can I go to the bathroom?"
Most frequently heard response: "I don't know? Can you?"
Next most frequently asked question: "May I go to the bathroom?"
Next most frequently heard response: "Yes, you may."
This is a daily exchange in my classroom, and it seems as though every year, just as soon as I get one group of students trained, they move on and I start the new year, training a new group of students.
It was the final response on the page, however, that really made me think:
"What are we doing today?" A large number of middle school students ask this question every day, despite having the day's agenda written on the whiteboard and the weekly calendar printed and handed out on Mondays.
What they are really asking is, "Can I connect with you again today?" and "Please focus on me, because I want some one-on-one time with you." Never underestimate the power of a friendly teacher smile, a listening ear, and a word or two with these students!
While I work with freshmen, they are usually not far from middle-school students in terms of behavior and ability, and this is a question that I hear scores of times in a single day. Usually, I will tell the first student that asks (despite the fact that I too have an agenda on the board) and then, when each successive student asks, I'll point to that first student and say, "I don't know, ask _____."
It never really occured to me until I read the above piece of sage advice what students are really asking, and now I've resolved that, when they ask, I'll instead ask them how their day has been thus far.
I enjoy talking with my students--hearing about their lives and their thoughts and their general outlook on things. For the past four years, however, I always interpreted the "what are we doing today" question as nothing more than kids being too lazy to look on the board, an interpretation that now makes me cringe. I want my students to connect with me, I want to connect with them, and I'm glad that the sage advice opened my eyes.
So, how was your day?