I have a magic question. It is simple yet powerful. It is empowering and not degrading. It is:
“In the future, what would I see different?”
I use this question all day, in all situations, with all ages of students. If I am speaking with a student about an undesirable behavior I have observed — I ask this question. If I see a student who has forgotten or is struggling with a school routine or expectation — I ask this question. If I am dialoguing with children who are stuck in conflict or trying to make sense of the choices they made — I ask this question.
This question is magic because it …
- Moves the conversation from an authoritative lecture to an supportive learning opportunity
- Empowers students to be thinkers and use their voice
- Creates a natural opportunity for student reflection and proposed action
- Creates a sense of student buy-in where the student can actually follow through on the “difference” they name
- Shows the student you don’t define her/him by his/her current choice/action but rather …
- … Shows the student you believe they are capable of changing behaviors and making positive choices
- Allows students to practice problem solving skills and become solution-focused
This question has not failed me. Sure, sometimes students stop and hesitate before answering. However, I like to believe it is because they are genuinely surprised that someone would ask and then they are thinking of an honest, thoughtful response. I love the way that when I ask this question, a sense of worry visibly disappears from student faces. They know that this is not a punitive conversation where they will end up “in trouble.” Rather, it seems that when students hear this question, they realize that I am supporting them in their behavior and action development. It is always inspiring to hear the response of a student who clearly has a plan to choose a different plan of action in the future. It is also liberating to spend more time listening than talking.
So, go ahead. Steal my magic question. I dare you.