What is one of the most powerful skills a person can have in their life?
Asking a big question like that to a crowd is risky. I'm used to such risks, and subsequently the lessons that come from failure. My only preface to calling out answers was that the responses should be sincere. To meet students where they are, versus where we think that should be or are, is a practical and prophetic imperative. Why wouldn't we as educators, mentors, leaders, ministers?
ANYway, that's how I began the rousing session of The Right Question Formulation Technique (RQFT) with upwards of 40 middle and high schoolers and several adult helpers and teachers. It was Thursday around 2:30 -- the weekly special presentation time as part of their summer enrichment program. I was a fill-in guest presenter and I had this tool -- the RQFT -- in my back pocket (and front pocket, on my mind and most importantly, in my heart).
The question was not too big for them. They called-out responses with sincere and serious ideas like "freedom," "a job," and "education," Yes, yes! All true.
"Okay, okay," I responded, "but what is even more basic than that? How do you manage that freedom? Why should someone hire you? What does it take to learn?" Then I impulsively took a paperback sitting on the table in front of me, gently pressed it to one to a teen's head and asked, "like this? Hey you, learn!!!! There, now you know what's in here."
"Nooooo," was the laughing chorus.
"How do you learn what this story is about?" I persisted.
"You have to rrrrreeeeeeeeaaaaad it!" they agreed.
"And are you reading it?" I was becoming annoying.
"Yyyyyyes," they said with a hint of eye rolls. They were too comfortable with me.
"And do you understand it?" and this surprised them.
With clear compassion in my voice I asked, "Do you know what this story is all about?"
"And what can you do if you don't understand it? don't know a word? aren't following the story? wonder about what this author is talking about?" I said even more softly.
It felt like over a few seconds they got it as they said together, "we can ask questions."
I almost cried right then but commanded myself not to blow it. I had the Good Question Game to teach.