What Questions Interest You?

I had a number of great conversations at the Klingenstein Summer Institute; it was an intellectual hothouse. I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had with Liz Perry, a co-director of KSI and co-lead teacher of the English cohort. She has an MEd from Harvard, and I was interested in getting her perspective on graduate study in education. Her program was a self-designed degree that alas, no longer exists at Harvard.

At one point, she asked me, “What questions interest you?” Not what do you want to do with your degree or what kind of degree are you interested in, which is often the way people frame the conversation. The question gave me pause.

It shouldn’t have been a surprising notion to me- one of the cornerstones of my educational philosophy is inquiry– but I’d never though of it when considering what kind of graduate study I might do.

So, I’m mulling over the questions that interest me. I don’t have any fully-formed ones yet, but words like technology, community, inquiry, literature, history, data, adolescents, literacy, and story are floating around. Oh yeah, and student debt 🙂

Questions

The Way

After Monday’s epic fail, we took some time today for students to finish/re-create their virtue nodes. The idea for the assignment came from the samurai code of honor (bushido meaning “The Way of the Warrior”). There were seven virtues that samurai committed to upholding.

For the assignment, I gave students a list of virtues (adapted from this site) and asked them to pick seven they felt would serve them well in their lives. After defining the virtues, students chose one question to answer for each virtue.

What challenges might develop in attempting to make this virtue part of your life?

What is a specific situation in which you have already demonstrated this virtue?

Who is a person who you think exemplifies this virtue? Why?

What virtue do you think will be the most difficult to consistently achieve? Why?

What character in the books we’ve read so far best demonstrates this virtue? How?

What is a situation in which you imagine this virtue might be useful? (Either now or later in life)

What’s a situation in which this virtue could be a vice (a bad thing)?

Students then compiled the virtues, definitions, and questions and answers and created mind maps using SpicyNodes and embedded them in their blogs. One of my favorites is The Way of the Comedian. (Click on the image below to explore it. It’s best viewed in full-screen.) You can also see the other node maps.

Of all the assignments we’ve done so far this year, I feel like this is the one that has given me the most insight into the people my students are and are becoming. Chris Lehmann has written that as teachers one of the greatest avenues of inquiry for us is our students. “What do you think?” is always the one question we don’t know the answer to unless we ask. I was grateful that this assignment gave me the opportunity to better listen to and learn from my students.