The Quality of Questions

People frequently ask me how I got into this business after such a long time in Education. Well the long and the short of it is that as soon as I started working with disadvantaged and very special youngsters I noticed that I had an ability to reach out to and connect with them and their families in a way that other people couldn’t.

This was a really rewarding aspect of my work and gave the young people a sense of being really valued and special individuals rather than problems. This strength grew and grew in terms of being able to work with more and more challenging youngsters and begin really successful with them and, increasingly, their families.

One colleague summed it up as ‘The rougher the child, the bigger the smile you’ve got!’

Now this was all well and good for a while but it began to create problems between myself and other staff. Pupils would respond really well to me but not to others and this created understandable friction with colleagues – and then I got the question that started all of this off.

Always keen on continuing education I became an addict – a hardline full blow addiction to The Open University! (The UKs most fantastic – life Changing Institution) Turning up bright eyed and busy tailed one bright February morning in the centre of Leeds my tutor, Mike Clarke, went around the room with a seemingly innocuous question to all of us in the seminar.

“What is it you do really well without having to think about it that other people cannot do?”

Well this had me stumped so I really had to think. Mike was just introducing the concept of unconscious competence, and how when we bring such competences back to conscious awareness we reflect and learn about them at a different manner.

My response was a lot of discomfort (The Pain of Learning) and then I got it – “I can talk to Leanne Smith!” Leanne was the most mis-understood difficult, obstinate challenging young woman in year 10! Confrontational, foul mouthed and obstinate – taking great delight in winding every other teacher in the school up to breaking point.

Now this confused every body  – and them Mike asked “What to you do that enables you to talk to Leanne?”

The I went into complete confusion – what was it exactly that I did that enabled me to do this. Out of the confusion emerged the following:

  • I respect her unconditionally
  • I accept her view of the world
  • I was always polite and friendly with her
  • I gave her time and listend to her
  • I had a laugh and a joke with her

This was the first time I had take apart my own skills, reflected on them and learned to apply them                 systematically. The quality of Mike’s question was immense and I can plot my personal journey from  that February morning over a decade ago.

One well honed question and a door in my life opened and I learned that the quality of our lives are governed by the quality of the questions we ask.

Now think very very hard. What is it you do really well without ever having to think about it that others can’t do?


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