In her 2017 revised and expanded edition of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Sherry Turkle continues to examine the impact of technology on human interaction, conversation and the capacity for true relationship and intimacy between people. Turkle, the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT, and the founder (2001) and current director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, concludes that “The world is more talkative now, in many ways, than it’s ever been. The problem is that all of this talk can come at the expense of conversation. We’re talking at each other rather than with each other.”
As educators and parents, we at The Cambridge School recognize this societal dilemma and want to cultivate a community that moves beyond talking “at” our children, to talking “with” our children. A great place to begin this cultivation is in the way in which we ask the question, “So, how was school today?”
In the end, asking good, intentional, and thoughtful questions encourages your children to do the same. It models an intentional observance that we hope to cultivate in our children. Ultimately, we hope this strengthens your bond with your child and cultivates a habit of talking with your child, not at them.
The Grammar School faculty has assembled a list of questions that move away from utilitarian information collection, to thought-provoking and meaningful conversation. We hope you enjoy!
What part of the day would you like to repeat?
Inherent in this question is the pedagogical expectation for the child to be a keen observer through his/her day. Rather than school being a series of random events happening within a timeframe, it encourages the child to reflect on moments as opportunities of meaning-making. In addition to this, it also gives parents a hint of the child’s interests academically and the child’s interpersonal connection with classmates.
Where is your favorite place in the classroom?
A great question to ask during classroom visitation days, this inquiry cues parents to the child’s personality, interests, and learning style. For example, if the child describes the “group-work” area as their favorite place, it might be an indication of their preference for collaborative learning. Vice versa, if the child speaks affectionately about their personal desk, it could suggest that they thrive in defined structure, organization, and introverted activities.
Name one mistake you made today, and what did you learn from it?
Integral to all learning is the necessity of trial and error. Cultivating an environment that views mistakes as opportunities for growth can engender a healthy confidence and motivation to try new and difficult tasks. This demystification of mistake-making should help them overcome the fear of failure.
Who made you smile or laugh today?
Friendships and classmate interactions are an important part of the learning environment. Social and emotional growth represents a large part of a child’s formation. Inviting them to share their interpersonal experiences can give you a window into their relational development.
What are you hoping to learn about tomorrow?
All too often, children lose the awe and wonder of learning. “Tomorrow” oriented questions, assist the child in both reflective exercises as well as future ideation. They can build an excitement for what’s to come and reveal any fears that may exist. Additionally, it communicates that there are things to look forward to and that learning is a daily pursuit.