“How was school today?”
“Good.” “Fine.” “Boring.”
How many times have I asked my son that question? Lots– every day in fact. How many times have I received a one-word answer? 98% of the time.
When I ask my son this question, I really want to know what is happening at school, and I never get much of an answer. The older he gets, the more I have to rely on his version of what is happening at school. I don’t see other parents as often as I used to , and I don’t have daily, or even weekly contact with his teacher. What I know about school comes through the filter of my son; the student, the adolescent, the boy, the athlete, the scientist, the actor, the dreamer.
Over the years I have felt like I have to perform an interrogation to get more than a “good,” “fine,” or an “ok.” I thought it was a memory problem (Didn’t he remember what happened today?) or maybe a vocabulary one (All those complicated themes to discuss!). But, after some thought, I finally realized that my daily question didn’t help create conversation at all, and that “How was your day?” really only merits a one-word answer. Bad, good, meh.
Conversation is about asking open-ended questions and seeing where the answers lead you. You may not always like what your kids tell you about school, but it is really important to listen to what they say. And for that to happen you have to get them talking to you about it.
“How was school today?” is a formula, and you’re going to get a formulaic answer. These get a much better response:
What was the best thing that happened today?
What do you think you should learn more of/less of in school?
When were you the most bored today?
If today had a theme song, what would it be?
Who did you help today? Who helped you?
What do you think the teachers talked about in the staffroom today?
Tell me one question you asked today in school.
try these questions, and the amazing following up question that works for them all- “WHY?”
- Meh- a description of a feeling which means “so-so” or “nothing special.”
- Staffroom- where the workers meet to speak and plan their work.