One Good Question

Last week I talked about two terrible, horrible, no good, very bad questions. This week I am talking about the one great question.

As a backdrop. I am a volunteer coach for a local high school boys basketball team. (An aside, being a volunteer coach is great. I don’t have to make any decisions and I tell everyone they are great..what can be better?!) I have been involved in high school basketball in some way or another for close to 40 years. In that time I have seen a lot of student-athletes and I have a decent idea of what it takes to play in college. Our team currently has a student-athlete that can definitely play at the next level. He is a senior this year and is passionate about playing basketball at the next level. The other day in practice, I took him aside and asked him one question: “Do you want to play basketball in college?” The answer to that one question set in motion a series of events that (I hope) will lead him to play basketball (his dream) in college.Now, here is the thing. Many people have asked him a version of that question before. Some even helped him brainstorm ideas about potential colleges. But his reaction to me asking the question brings to light a few general principles of leading a learner-centered school.

Some Principles of Leading a Learner-Centered School

1. Timing is everything. I didn’t do anything special except I asked him the question when he was ready to answer it. The takeaway is that a learner-centered school must have systems in place to constantly monitor where a learner is in their learning journey (and I don’t mean giving learners formative assessments…). After all, we are dealing with kids, and our responsibility as adults is to provide a space for them to express their concerns and desires, whether that is about academics, athletics, or social issues. And oh, by the way, they will change their minds…often!2. Every school must know the “one” question for every learner. Regardless of age, grade, socio-economic status, adults in the school system must know the learners well enough to ask the one question.3. Relationships are THE MOST IMPORTANT facet to build with learners. Every adult in school must be laser-focused on knowing their learners. Period. No questions asked. How is your school structured to know what the one important question is for every learner right now?What will you do to assure someone in your school knows the one question?

About Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.
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