« What Did You Learn at Summer Institute? | Main | Welcome Back, Our Heroes »

Loaded Questions

By Craig McKinney, AVID Teacher and Staff Developer

This painting was created for Craig by his students: Kavina Hsu, Amy Wang, and Sara Watters.

Teachers spend hours each week asking questions. We check for understanding, ensure that students completed their homework, probe for clarification, extend learning beyond the surface level, and try to determine what is wrong with that one kid who (fill in the blank). Sometimes, our questions shift their focus from the students to ourselves, as we examine our professional practices and reflect on the effectiveness of our lessons and our actions.

As we embark on a new school year with a sea of fresh faces sitting in our classrooms, I’d like to ask a few loaded questions—the type where we probably know what the right answer ought to be, but if we were honest with ourselves, would realize that the correct answer isn’t always the one we choose as we slip back into our day-to-day routines.

Do you want to be the teacher who believes in the potential of every student or the one who decides from the first week how successful each one will be?

Will you treat every student exactly the same, even if it seems clear that each one learns a little bit differently from the others?

Will you open doors for your students or stand in the way, telling some that they cannot enter?

By the second week of school, will your students be able to predict your lesson plan before entering the classroom, or will you surprise them with well-planned novelty and variety?

Will you permit students to make other students feel unsafe or unworthy by their words and actions, or will your classroom be a safe place for everyone to learn and take risks?

Will you use praise as motivation, or will you attempt to motivate using criticism?

Will you check for understanding both formally and informally and adjust your lesson plans if students need more instruction, or will you march through the curriculum without stopping or looking back and hope that all of your students stay in step?

Will you engage your students with active and collaborative learning, or will you sedate them with daily lectures?

Will you celebrate the diversity in your classroom, or will you wish that everyone were the same?

Will you have high expectations for your students and help them reach those expectations, or will you set the bar low so that everyone can easily pass?

Will you model positive character traits, teach adult decision-making, and embrace the teachable moments, or is covering your curriculum much more important than helping your students become decent adults?

As your students graduate from college, will they remember you as someone who played a positive part in making that happen, not someone in spite of whom they succeeded?

I hope that this year’s blogs will offer some help in finding answers for these difficult questions.

Thank you for all that you do for your AVID students and all of your students!

Want to read more blogs from Craig? Check these out!

Your Teacher WICOR Summer Homework
A Brain-Based Paradigm Shift
In the Classroom: Setting House Rules
Giving Thanks: A Reminder


Craig McKinney teaches Humanities at Shepton High School in Plano, Texas. A Dallas-area native, Craig attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, where he received degrees in English and Sociology. He earned his master’s degree at the University of North Texas. During his 21-year teaching career at Shepton, Craig has taught English, Humanities, Latin, and the AVID Elective. As part of his contribution to Shepton’s AVID site team, Craig spreads AVID strategies schoolwide through staff in-services and by writing a weekly Wednesday WICOR email. When he’s not teaching ninth and tenth graders, Craig works as an AVID staff developer. He also bakes a mean loaf of sourdough bread, serves as an officer of his university’s local alumni association, and loves herb gardening, attending cultural events, and playing board games.


 For more on AVID, visit http://avid.org/what-is-avid.ashx.


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (3)

Thanks for this, Craig. Asking these questions is a wonderful framework for reflection.

August 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJeanie Greenidge


Once again, you have provided great insight and practical approaches, based on believing the best in your students.

I just sat in on a Socratic Seminar with our California Division, based on Carol Dweck's book Mindset. Your thinking is right in line with hers.


September 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRob Gira

Thanks for this great information. I totally agree with your perspective. Your articles made me want to read more.

June 15, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterstanley

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>