Inspiration for Inquiry: 36 Questions
I spent the better part of a year ruminating on how to address and solve problems that arose from philosophical differences and teaching styles in the classroom. In truth, these type of problems seemed untouchable. Much like in a debate on politics or religion, both parties would sigh and say something along the lines of, "Well, I’m not going to change their beliefs, so what can I do?”
In order to address this issue, I began making my own philosophical beliefs very clear while communicating with my co-teachers. I started to say things like, “I am going to turn this question into a group discussion because I believe that the students need to articulate their ideas in order to form them more thoroughly.”
To my surprise, instead of thinking I was insane, my co-teachers began reciprocating that type of language in the classroom. Once the language changed, I noticed that co-teaching also became easier. We became more comfortable with allowing the other to “run with it” and, in some cases, began incorporating one another’s core practices into our other lessons.
By articulating our own philosophical beliefs in a non-threatening way, my co-teacher and I were creating a classroom culture that allowed both of us to be “ourselves” while also working as a team.
I decided to focus my Teachers College Inclusive Classroom Project inquiry on whether I could recreate this classroom culture in a more structured way.
I was inspired by a New York Times article called, “The 36 Questions that Lead to Love.” The article detailed a study conducted by psychologists, Arthur and Elaine Aaron, that explores “ whether intimacy...can be accelerated by having [strangers] ask each other a specific series of personal questions." According to Elaine Aron, one of the developers of the study, “the basis of the 36 questions is that back-and-forth self-disclosure... is consistently linked with coming to like the other person you do this with.”
The article led me to wonder whether the same experiment could be recreated among co-teachers. That is: could I create a series of questions that would tap into the experiences and philosophies that shape us as educators? If so, would communicating these experiences to a co-teacher benefit the working relationship?