Why do you do that?

This is the question I wish people would ask me when they visit my classroom. But few do. I don’t know if they are afraid of the answer, if they don’t want to know the answer, or if they are worried I might ask them the same question.  I spend a LOT of time thinking about WHY in my practice. Why isn’t a student responding to my teaching? Why is a student able to do something today that they couldn’t yesterday? Why are children behaving that way?  It is probably this diagnostic in-depth examination of  both my students and my practice that has allowed me to continuously deepen my understanding of what I do every day and why I do it. And I really wish people would ask me about it.

Not because I know all the answers. I don’t. But I like the challenge of having to defend to what I’m doing.

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Ask me why I provide materials as children request them and explain how to use a measuring tape.
Ask me why I have real fossils for kids to dig for with real hammers.
Ask me why I let kids spend 4 afternoons building these tunnels.
Ask why I have permanent markers instead of pencils and why kids do the milk order every day instead of me.
Ask me why half of the room is occupied with a building center and why children can build every day for as long as they want.



I like to take in an educational TEDX talk every week and this week while watching  Seth Godin’s TEDX talk about “What is School for”  I couldn’t help but think about why people don’t want to know more about why schools need to change and why they seem satisfied to accept the status quo, dismal as it may be.

I don’t know the answer. So, this week, I am asking for your help. I’d really like to hear your thoughts on these questions:

This first one is for teachers:

Why aren’t students more motivated to learn things in school? Why do they learn things and then often forget them the following year?

This next one is for parents:

Why does your child dislike homework? Why do they say “I don’t know” when you ask them about what they learned in school today?

This last one is for educational leaders:

Why aren’t you talking more about why things need to change? Why aren’t you asking teachers why they are continuing to do things that aren’t working?


I am posting the link again to Seth Godin’s TEDX talk about “What is School for  because I really think it’s worth watching. Why?

Watch it and see.

Leave a comment about one of the WHY questions I’ve asked.

I would really like to know what you think.





Cathy Baker View All →

Dedicated teacher for the past 18 years. Lifelong learner. Newbie blogger. Follow me on Twitter @Baker1973Cathy

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Jill,
    I appreciate your thoughtful commentary. I am unsure as to the next steps. I’ve asked plenty of questions of teachers in other schools in Ontario, BC, and Alberta who were transitioning or had already transitioned their practice and their thinking to a more student-centred approach. When I started, I didn’t have many answers, only questions. And it was terrifying! I wonder sometimes if I should think of teacher learning like student learning, social-emotional, relationship building first, academics second. I expect that a shift this big is highly unnerving for even the most seasoned teacher. I wonder if building relationships between district staff and individual teachers might give teachers the support they need to begin to make changes. What would this look like, I wonder? I had a few people at both the district and department level that supported me in the beginning and continue to today. You are included in this group.
    I wonder if this is what helped me handle the social/emotional factors that came with shifting practice so dramatically.

  2. Opening up to asking and receiving questions is foundational in NL’s provincial ELA curriculum. “Questions” appears more than a dozen times in the front matter of the ELA Kindergarten guide. I appreciate questions for the power they have in moving thinking from one place to another, and often not in a linear fashion. Without questions, how do we learn? Questions without clear or simple answers lead to more questions and deeper learning. Thoughtful questions that provoke reflection and change are powerful for all learning. But we can’t be guaranteed that everyone we ask will be open to either contributing satisfying answers or questions.

    What is the next step? Ask different questions? Find different people to ask the questions of?

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