Asking ‘why’ more often…

cc flickr photo by e-magic

cc flickr photo by e-magic

“He who has a why can endure any how.”

A week into August and my mind is abuzz with ideas, plans, and questions about the coming school year. I am eager to get started, excited to meet my kidlets, keen to try new things, and yet nervous about how it will all unfold.

I am constantly striving to improve my practice, to be a better teacher, to find a better way. I want to find strategies, tools, and approaches that will address the needs of each of my kids, engage them in meaningful learning experiences, and help them to grow and flourish as unique individuals. To do this, I know it is important to clarify and articulate my philosophy of learning, to align my philosophy with my practice, and to be intentional and thoughtful in my choices.

“He who is afraid of asking is ashamed of learning.”
~~Danish proverb~~

This summer, Twitter has provided a new space for me to find ideas, strategies, and tools, and to reflect upon my practice, to rethink my philosophy, and to consider my choices.Β  For example, just this morning, I stumbled upon @NancyTeaches‘ blog post, Want Children to Love Reading, then Throw Away the Reading Logs. A short time later, I found myself following a conversation between @Grade1 @soltauheller @maxxakahotdog @FlyontheCWall @MrMacnology on Twitter #daily5 about the ellimination of reading logs…. Then tonight, I read @michellek107‘s post, Why I blog.

cc flickr photo by crystaljingsr

cc flickr photo by crystaljingsr

My tweeps challenged my thinking and brought my current practice into question. They encouraged me to reflect on my rationale for reading logs and to ponder new options. Their shared thinking inspired me to consider the importance of asking why more often.

Why do I assign reading logs? Why do I insist parents sign the logs? Why do I provide rewards for signed logs?Β  Unfortunately, if I am to be honest in my answers regarding the purpose of a few of my current strategies and approaches, these practices do not align with my philosophy of learning. I believe in honouring children, in responding to the needs of my kids, and in the power of inquiry-based, child-centred learning. In fact, if I am brutally honest, I think my answers to the above questions are one in the same, ‘Why?…Because that’s the way I was taught’. Ouch!! The truth hurts…

“Good questions outrank easy answers.”
~~Paul Samuelson~~

As @gcouros pointed out in a blogpost earlier in the summer, The Why, “the ‘why’ creates the opportunity to start with the end in mind.” He quoted Simon Sinek, from the Ted video on The Importance of Why, noting that β€œit is those that start with why have the ability to inspire others, or to find others that inspire them”.

And so as I plan and prepare for the new school year, I will try to focus on asking why more often, on starting with the end in mind, and on walking my talk. Afterall, actions speak louder than words…

I have definitely found others that inspire me! I feel privileged and grateful to have found a PLN that challenges me to reflect upon, clarify, and articulate my philosophy of learning; to align my philosophy with my practice; and to be intentional and thoughtful in my choices.


“If there is something to gain and nothing to lose by asking,
by all means ask!”
~~W.Clement Stone~~

12 thoughts on “Asking ‘why’ more often…

  1. I’m always wondering why….thus my Twitter handle. ;o) I really enjoyed this post. (On a side note, I really liked the format of it. I’m always noticing the layouts of blogs, and your pictures work so nicely with this post.)

    Twitter has been a great place for asking why. There are so many smart educators who are willing to discuss practice in thoughtful ways. I learn so much every day. I’m going to be a bit sad when school starts as I’m not sure how I will manage this learning time which I value so much. Aligning our practice with our philosophy can be so hard sometimes. I know before the new year begins there are some practices I need to ask myself why about. Your post was a great reminder. Thanks!

    • Thanks for your comment and kind words, Cathy! Twitter has definitely inspired me to look more closely at aligning my practice with my philosophy… not always easy!

      P.S. I love your Twitter handle! πŸ˜‰

  2. Hey Michelle,

    Love this post. Here is something that some would find as a weakness but I find a strength:

    “these practices do not align with my philosophy of learning.”

    This self-reflection is so important to what we do in any practice and when we set our goals, we need to align our systems to meet that purpose. For example, I believe in distributed leadership and that all of us on our staff have a role in providing the best environment for the students. However, when you walked into the school, there was the traditional “principal” picture that hung above. Here I am telling everyone that we are all a part of the team but only one person’s picture was hanging in the front hallway? That came down quickly as I need to really consider what my message is and how I portray it through my work.

    Excellent post!

    • Thanks for your response, George! From someone whom I consider an outstanding model of self-reflection, your words are very meaningful.

      I like your example of taking down that ‘traditional principal picture’ as a way of aligning your systems to meet your purpose, as I think it shows the big impact of little actions! Our actions really do send messages and we need to consider what messages those actions are sending.

      I agree that self-reflection is critical to improving practice. Although not always easy, I think it is important to ask why are we doing what we are doing and whether what we are doing aligns with our deep moral purpose as educators.

      Thanks for taking time to read my blog.

  3. George, once again you have inspired me to rethink how I teach. Am I just assigning reading for compliance? What’s the real goal? I want the students to create their own learning so I have decided to give them the choice on how to learn it. Thoughts in process on what that will look like.

    Thanks to you and my PLN for changing the way I think about my teaching and learning.

    • Hi Ron…

      I like what you say hear about ‘thoughts in process’… I think shaping our practice and aligning it with our philosophy is an ongoing, iterative task, a neverending loop of thinking, choosing, implementing, reflecting, rethinking, etc. etc. etc.

      We are lucky to be part of PLN that challenges our thinking for sure!


  4. Nice post! Sometimes, it’s difficult to ask ourselves WHY we do what we do… and then even more difficult when we’re honest about the answers. πŸ™‚

    A reflective learner does both, and then makes changes where necessary.

    For people who don’t understand what a PLN can do for educators, this post is an excellent example. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Thank you, Michelle… for taking time to respond to my post, for your kind words, and for having a part in inspiring me and challenging my thinking!

      The next step is to do something with my honest answers and to take those actions that lead to changes in my practice!


  5. Michelle

    I love this post ! It aligns so well with what I have been thinking and blogging about recently. I used the title “reflective practice’ but your “asking why more often” sums it up better. I also agree with your comments on Twitter and Blogs that challenge our thinking – all great and powerful.

    Good luck with your new year – you will have some very lucky students.


    Celia (Melbourne, Australia)

    • Thanks for your comments, Celia…

      Reflective practice is essential, and not always that easy. There are so many things we do in the classroom, without thinking, because ‘that’s the way we were taught’, or ‘the way it is done’.

      I think asking the hard questions and really being honest about our answers is the first step to making change and making a difference in student learning. πŸ™‚ I’ve been following your blog and enjoying reading your thoughts, too! Thanks for sharing your ideas and being an inspirational part of my PLN! πŸ™‚


  6. Great reflection, Michelle! When you have the word ‘why’ in bold, it kind of jumps off the page. It immediately reminds me of a child – one constantly asking ‘why’. Perhaps this brings out the ‘child’ in you – something very important that we all need to treasure and protect.

    • Awww, thanks for your comment, Cindy! I found a quote about the childlike quality of questioning that I almost included in this post:

      I agree that we need to treasure and protect the ‘child’ in us, especially as teachers… if we start at that place of understanding our children, we are bound to keep them at the centre of our thinking when it comes to education!

      Appreciate you taking the time to comment and grateful to have you in my PLN–you are such a positive and inspirational presence! πŸ™‚


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