This post actually comes out of a conversation that I had with some visiting teachers from London today. Caroline Woodburn, an Instructional Coach that I met through Twitter, came to visit with a colleague of hers, Bera. They wanted to see the use of inquiry in the classroom.
During their visit, my students were working on the initial task in this natural phenomenon activity. As the students worked in their groups on developing their questions and beginning their research, I conferenced with them. My goal was to have the students develop better questions: ones in which they had to think.
When reflecting on the lesson afterwards with Caroline and Bera, they were speaking to me about the questions that I asked my students to have them redevelop their own questions. They thought of the initial research questions that some of the students asked (e.g., Where are places that have tsunamis?) and how I knew to press more and dig deeper to get to the final questions of, Is it possible for a tsunami to occur in Canada? Where might it occur? Why? It was through this lunchtime conversation that I realized what I do: I channel my inner Mrs. Bishop.
Kristi Bishop is our vice principal, and her ability to ask hard questions and engage student thinking is truly incredible. I love watching her in action, and I try to listen very closely as she talks. She even offered to come in earlier in the year to model a Challenge Game with my class to show the value in asking good, deep thinking questions. Since that time, I always think of Kristi when I ask students questions. As silly as it sounds, I imagine a little Mrs. Bishop sitting on my shoulder right next to my ear. When I sat today to listen to student questions, I thought to myself, What would Kristi whisper in my ear? How could the students make these questions richer, and what questions could I ask to help them see where to go next? And then I said and did what I thought that she would say and do.
I’m definitely not perfect at this, but I am getting better. I needed someone to help me get there though. That Challenge Game Modelling Activity was not just for my students, but it was for me too. Until this year, I’m not sure that I really knew how to get students to truly think, but watching people like Kristi in action, helped. We all need a “Mrs. Bishop”: a person that can show us what to do and can support us during the process, whether they’re there in reality or as the little voice in our ear. Who is your “Mrs. Bishop?” How does this person help you during the teaching/learning process? During this month of #gratitude, let’s share and celebrate those people that make us better at what we do! Thank you, Kristi, for being one of those people for me!