I have noticed a pattern in the last few years – the teachers that get the best out of students are the ones who develop a culture of permission in their classrooms. These are the classrooms in which you can find a wide of variety of inquiries happening, the classrooms in which you will often find a purposeful mess, the classrooms in which anyone can wander without anyone batting an eyelid, the classrooms in which teachers and students are often at the same level as they learn together.
This kind of teacher says “yes” while others say “no”. This kind of teacher knows that their response to students’ inquiries is their most powerful pedagogical influence. This kind of teacher seeks ways to support, empower and connect their students to the pathways they need in order to take their inquiries further.
Of course, this culture of permission starts with teachers themselves. They must allow themselves to take risks with their students’ learning, to let things happen in the classroom that they are not used to, to risk upsetting more conventional colleagues who don’t really get it and to be strong enough to identify transformative learning as it is happening. They must also be strong and skillful in working with parents so that they too may come to understand what their children are doing and how they can play a positive role.
So… rather than saying “no” or finding some other way to close an inquiry down, try some of these phrases out on your students and see what effect it has:
“OK… give it a go”
“Alright, lets look for a way to do that”
“Hmmm… who might be able to help with that?”
“Yep, you can”
“What plans do you have for this?”
“How might you be able to find out more?”
“Yes, that is interesting… lets take a deeper look”
“Where can you get the things you need?”
“Do you want me to help you look into this further?”
“I have an idea… would you like me to share it with you?”
When teachers respond in these ways, amazing things can happen. They don’t always happen, of course… but they are far more likely. After a year in a classroom where inquiries are responded to with interest, excitement and suggestion a student is well on their way. Imagine if they got to be in those classrooms year after year.