About a month ago, I started to greet students in the morning and throughout the day with a Question of the Day, it is usually a “would you rather…” question that I made up on a spot. Students had to choose an answer true to their personality.  I wanted to learn more about the students around me- especially the students I see every day but do not have in class. I also wanted the students to learn about themselves.  The questions are often wacky but students tend to really contemplate their answers. Every day, I tally the answers on a sticky note, not because I want to plug the numbers into a database, but because students like to see their vote counted and see how other students answered.

This practice has become a staple routine among Denny International Middle School eighth graders.  Eighth graders who never used to make eye contact with me now pounce on me in the halls and demand the Question of the Day. I love watching their faces twist up as they try to pick their answer. I love when they explain their responses, as if this is the most important choice they have ever made and they don’t want you to think they made this decision on a whim. Most of all, I love hearing students ask each other the Question of the Day in the hall. Once I heard a teacher ask a student, “So what’s the Question of the Day today?” as he walked upstairs.

The Question of the Day has really helped me to learn about and connect with students outside the classroom and, to my delight, it has helped students learn about themselves and one another. This learning and connection at Denny has reminded me of City Year’s Putting Idealism to Work #98: All people- especially young people- need the same eight things: meaning, adventure, community, power, respect, structure, challenge, and opportunity. If you go out of your way to ask a young person any of the following questions and really take the time to listen to their answers, I guarantee you will see those eight things come together in a weird and wonderful way.


Questions I Have Asked My Middle School Scholars in the Last Month:

Would you consider it a blessing or a curse if each time you were submerged in water, you became a mer-person? (Survey says: blessing)

Would you rather be a talking dog or a normal tiger? (Survey says: normal tiger)

Would you rather have a theme song that played every time you walked somewhere or a 24/7 halo that you could never dim, even when you went to bed or to the movies? (Survey says: halo)

Would you rather never be able to hear music again or never be able to see color again? (Survey says: never see color again)

Would you rather eat the same meal at every meal every day for a year or a different meal at every meal every day for a year but no repeats allowed? (Survey says: different meal every day)

Are human beings more like onions or puzzles? (Survey says: puzzles)

Do you believe in love at first sight? (Survey says: no)

Would you rather be able to give hugs that cure sadness or be able to make the world’s greatest cookies? (Survey says: greatest cookies)

Would you rather have a portrait painted of you that was famous (hanging in a big time museum), but not attractive or a normal, good looking portrait of yourself that hung in your house for no one but you and your family and friends to see? (Survey says: ugly and famous please)

Would you rather be the ocean or the wind? (Survey says: the wind)

Would you rather spend a year in space with the same three people or a year in a foreign country where you don’t know anyone and you don’t know the language? (Survey says: space)

Would you rather be the best player on the worst NFL team or the worst player on the best NFL team? (Survey says: best player on the worst team)

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