Old dog, new trick

We all know the expression, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” However, do we really believe it? I don’t. I believe it truly is possible to learn something new at any age. This holds true for dogs as well. Below is a video of my dog Boomer, showing off a new trick. He’s twelve years old. (In full disclosure, this video is from four years ago…but let’s do the math, he was still 8 years old when he learned how to do this, NOT a puppy in any way).

Why am I sharing this video of my “old” dog? To illustrate this old adage isn’t always the truth. As we approach teachers (some who are more seasoned than others), how do we get them to come to this same conclusion? How do we get someone to realize the power to change and grow is completely within themselves? As a coach, I believe the answers lie in the questions we ask when we are talking with teachers. I have mentioned this thought before, but a well-placed well worded question can be quite powerful in instigating change.

I have struggled with asking the right questions at times and know this is a constant area of growth for coaches. It is a skill that needs constant refinement and practice. Open ended questions are the pathways to better reflection, growth, and change. Often changing one word in a question can shift the respondents answer to a much deeper level of response. Bruce Wellman and Laura Lipton offer several quite powerful word shifts in their book “Got Data? Now What? Creating and Leading Cultures of Inquiry.” One such example is to shift away from “the” and toward “some”. Instead of asking a question such as: “What is the reason why students didn’t grasp this concept?” Ask: “What are some reasons why the students didn’t grasp this concept?” This simple shift opens up the question for quite a bit more inquiry and several more causalities, expanding the path for more possible solutions.

Well worded questions invite thinking and create new possibilities. They motivate growth, ignite passions, and can be uncomfortable at times. They also motivate us to make decisions, seek answers, and ask further questions. Properly worded questions will often inspire us “old” dogs to learn new tricks. I too strive to learn new things and work to push myself outside of my comfort zone (this blog was born from one such push). I’m in the weeds with everyone else and try to practice what I preach. As an offering of this practice, I would like to share with all of you the current questions I am reflecting upon. I receive a coaching email from my local AEA each month. This month, there was a link to some End of Year Reflection Questions provided by Elena Aguilar. She is an instructional coach and author with great resources you can check out here. As the current school year comes to a close, I am beginning to think forward toward this summer and next year, these questions are helping me to reflect upon this year, plan for next year, and think about areas I would like to refine over the summer. Some of the fruits of this reflection may very well end up in this blog in future posts.

Happy reflecting educational friends, cheers to the new tricks you are learning!

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