Asking the Right Questions

“So, how are classes going?”
“Tout bagay anfom, wi, Sora.”

“Everything’s fine, Sora.” That’s always the response when I’m talking to the teachers on the phone from the US. The further away I am, the less I know about what’s really going on. In some ways, it makes sense – I want the teachers to feel in charge of programs after I leave, instead of calling me up at the first sign of trouble. But sometimes, more information is useful.

Below are some of the questions I ask Jameson and Jean Albert to report on before we talk every two weeks. What questions am I not asking? How can I change the wording to get a better response?

For each class, write how many kids came and what time class started.

Sometimes a pattern of lateness is an indication of something else – the kids aren’t motivated, or there were problems charging the computers, or classtime is conflicting with other events in the community.

What activities did you use?
What did the kids create with the activities?
What did the kids learn with the activities?

When I ask what they’re doing in the classes, the teachers respond with what activities they’re using, but it’s not enough for me to know the kids are using the Paint activity – I want to know what they’re painting. I’m hoping these new questions will emphasize to the teachers that when they plan a lesson, they should be planning what the kids are meant to learn or create with it.

Did all the kids work well? Which of your actions encouraged this?
If there was one who didn’t work well, why do you think he didn’t want to do the activity?
Did all of the kids listen well to the teacher?
If no, what will you change to encourage them to listen?

I spent a lot of time debating over the wording here. On one hand I don’t want the teachers to feel like I’m blaming them for the kids’ bad behavior; on the other, the teachers need to understand that their own actions affect the kids’ attitudes. So, I use the word “encourage” to remind them of their role, and when kids do act up, I ask the teachers about the kid’s motivation.

Did all the computers work well?
If there was a problem, please give some more details:
Is the solar charging system working well?
Does the box have a red light?

You’d be surprised how often technical problems don’t get reported until the very end of the call. “Oh, Sora, by the way, computer 15 isn’t working.” I want the teachers to know it’s okay to let me know when something’s broken instead of feeling guilty about it.

Write any other information you would like Sora to know here:

This normally turns into a place for the teachers to vent. They want to know that I care about their concerns and I’m doing what I can to support them. Sometimes (often) I can’t give them everything they’d like, but at least they know I’m listening.


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