Professional Development Opinion

Ask the Right Questions, Listen to the Answers

By Starr Sackstein — March 01, 2018 2 min read
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Fortunately, I have a single-person bathroom in my office. Now that may sound a little disgusting and perhaps distracting, but for me, it offers opportunity.

Since the humanities office is not centrally located, aside from the bathroom most folks don’t frequent the joint. So I have been able to capitalize on the fact that most teachers don’t get as many bathroom breaks as they like.

#Attentive was the word I chose for 2018 and so far, I’ve done my best to really focus on listening to my team and so when I hear the door to my outside office open and someone creeps down the steps, I lean close to my desk to see who it, make sure to say hello and then grab my opportunity to ask questions.

Recently I had the opportunity to chat with one teacher about an upcoming department meeting. Since I needed feedback from the last department meeting and wanted to know if we should continue with what we talked about last time or if we should move and if we should move on, to what.

We only get one department meeting a month and that is for 45 minutes, so it is a precious time that should be spent wisely. I don’t take any of the time for granted and always want to respect the time of all of the teachers in the room. But our department is varied. There are middle school and high school teachers. And they come from all different disciplines: business, English, library, reading, social studies, and world languages. So each meeting must be carefully planned so it can be useful to everyone.

My brief question about what we should do offered an opportunity to really listen to the teacher and decide to use the next meeting for something different than what we have been doing. It also gave me a chance to brainstorm with a stakeholder and set me on a course for planning the meeting that will happen in a week and a half.

Other times, I’m asking teachers clarifying questions or follow up questions. I don’t like to drop the ball on anything so if I start a conversation, I always like to try to get back to the team with status updates or sneak back into their rooms to see how things are going to be as supportive as possible.

Additionally, at the end of each monthly department meeting, I ask the team to fill out an online exit ticket that helps me understand how I’m doing and where I can improve. It offers a pulse on where everyone is and how I can better serve their needs.

This whole leader thing is still very new and as I continue to grow in the position, I keep my feet firmly planted in the important work of doing what is best for kids. Sometimes that is received well and sometimes it takes time, but I’m tenacious and not likely to give up anytime soon. The kids deserve it too much.

So each time I ask a question, whether it is in passing, in conversation, in an email or in an exit ticket, the answers are my lifeline to progress and growth. I need to seize each opportunity and make time for the answers and not be afraid to make adjustments on my side.

There are too many things to do each day and it could be easy to miss these important listening opportunities, but I care too much about doing this job well to allow them to slip away. My door is always open, but until I’m here longer, I need to meet everyone where it is most convenient for them.

So off I go on my learning walks. What questions will you quest for answers from today? Please share.

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