Welcome to the world of Why – Changing Your Song and Dance
“Why is the grass green?” “Why do I have to make my bed when I’m just going to mess it up again sleeping in it tonight?” Ah, Memories … those years when everything I said or asked my kids to do was met with “why?” One of the things I’ve learned is that sometimes “why” is the most important question we can ask before we can make real changes that will have positive impact on student success. And that when asking this question, the most important person whom we can ask this question is “The Man in the Mirror.”
Specifically, we need to look at each of the things we do as instructors, from classroom policies to teaching methods, to each and every way we interact with our students, and ask “Why” – why do we do them/impose them/use them? What truly do we hope to accomplish for students through these things? For example, take a look at your assignment policy: Do you allow assignments to be turned in late? If so, do you impose a penalty? Do you have a policy that “excuses” lateness or allows for extensions? Look at each component of that policy and ask why that is your policy. Where did it come from? How is it designed to benefit students?
As we question why, we must follow some simple rules: (1) don’t be Vain – be prepared to consider constructive change without being defensive; (2) don’t be Tainted by the Love of your own ideas such that you can’t see their faults; (3) never Say (Say Say) “because this is how I’ve/we’ve always done it” or “because this is what a more experienced instructor gave me” as an answer to the question. If, for a particular practice, you can’t come up with a good reason why, or a concrete and measurable way the policy benefits your students, then STOP! (In the Name of Love – or rather, learning)
Are your old ideas in Jeopardy? Then it’s a Good Day (Sunshine)! And if your questions lead you to see a need for change, Don’t Worry … Be Happy that you are on the road toward enhancing student success! And then start Sharing the Love by engaging other instructors in these conversations so that we can all become citizens of the world of Why.
*special thanks to the Backstreet Boys, Michael Jackson, Annie Lennox/Jason Aldean/Secondhand Serenade, Carly Simon, Soft Cell/Gloria Jones, Paul McCartney, The Supremes, Greg Khin Band, the Beatles, Bobby McFerrin and Chaka Khan for their musical contributions to this post.