Tuesday, January 26, 2016

MTBoS Blogging Initiative: Better Questions (When You Don't Possess All of the Answers)

Here we go, Week 3 of the MTBoS Blogging Initiative! This post for the initiative deals with questioning. This is a pretty tough one for sure. I try to be cognizant of how I do questioning, but I very seldom can remember specific questions.

When I am lesson planning, I try to be aware of the misconceptions that students have with the concept. However, I am not a believer in scripting out questions for students for a couple of reasons. My first reason is that I have been teaching for four years, and, although this sounds arrogant, what teacher has time to script lessons? What is more important? Scripting questions that you may or may not remember or designing solid lessons and engaging students with questions? The second reason that I do not script is that I know myself well, and I am not going to remember those specific questions.

Anyways, I am off my tangent now.

I want to talk about being able to approach student questions with honesty. There have been several times where students have asked me questions that I honestly did not know the answer to. I am a believer that teenagers can smell BS a mile away. So, when I am asked a question that I honestly do not know the answer to, I am honest with them. I simply say "That's an amazing question, but I honestly don't know the answer (or have a good answer)." Then I respond by saying "However, let's look it up (or I will look that up)."

I find that students are able to respect this more. It lets the students know that I am fallible as their teacher and that I do not possess all of their answers nor all of life's answers.

Let me describe an example, though.

This was during my second year teaching and first year teaching Algebra II. I was teaching and introducing rational expressions and equations to students. I had a student ask the infamous question "When are we ever going to use this?" I simply responded that I didn't know. During my planning period, I decided to google the answer. I learned a lot about where rational expressions could be used. I came back to class with an answer to that student's question. I honestly think that he was shocked that I had researched it. Let me add a disclaimer that I dread teaching rational expressions more than any other topic. My students have struggled with the multi-step problems, and sometimes, I don't get time to get to teach the topic. Students also struggle with finding common denominators since many of my students were either not taught (or cannot perpetually remember) how to find common denominators in elementary and middle school.

Since writing this post, I have thought about another post to write on questioning, so stay tuned for that.

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