Questions Matter

Posted by Dana Pattison on December 5, 2016

professional development

So often my best teaching comes when I don’t give any information. A well-crafted question can provide far more information than the best slideshow presentation in the world. This is something that drew me to Facing History and Ourselves one fateful summer three and a half years ago when I went to a Holocaust and Human Behavior seminar. I liked that the session I attended often raised more questions than it answered and challenged me to complicate my thinking. When offered an opportunity to join the Facing History Leadership Academy, a group of educational leaders who have an in-depth understanding of the organization’s teaching framework and resources, I jumped at the chance. I was excited to expand my ability to question.

As I developed my role with Facing History I was soon asked to facilitate a session at the Holocaust and Human Behavior Summer Seminar. I knew I wanted to continue exploring my love of questioning and hopefully impart that to other educators so I created an inquiry center for participants to travel from station to station gathering information to answer an essential question. For this adventure they were tasked to investigate: “How did the state marshal the energy of multiple institutions for turning neighbor against neighbor?”

I walked the educators in the room through the exercise just like I would have my students do in class.  They examined documents such as timelines, examples of Nuremberg laws, primary source experiences, and an online exhibition through the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. (All conveniently linked here). The session went well and the participants enjoyed both the experience and the resources. At the end, it was our ability to discuss not only the facts and figures but also how to teach such a difficult history that really brought us together. Every teacher always wants to feel as if they have had a meaningful impact on their students.

Part of my role as a teacher leader with Facing History is to follow up with participants from my session. Seminars and workshops are wonderful and meaningful but something truly special comes with the one-on-one interaction between two educators with a sense of inquiry and purpose.

I had facilitated a few sessions before and sent out my customary follow up emails but hadn’t had any bites yet. I understand why—teachers are busy. Like, BUSY.  It was still a little disheartening to hear nothing in return. That is why I was so tremendously excited when I received my first response over the summer.

A teacher in my region was new to the organization and had inherited the Facing History elective at her school, due to start in just a week! We met at a Starbucks (Don’t we always? At some point I fear they might start to charge me office space fees) and I walked her through the Facing History scope and sequence as it played out in the Holocaust and Human Behavior elective course at my school. With each big idea we discussed modern implications and new ideas. The next thing I knew I was getting resources from her! I, still in my summer time haze, suddenly became incredibly excited to begin the new school year.

This is what I love most about teachers sitting and talking about their craft. When two passionate people begin to share ideas it is an energizing experience. When two people begin to ask big questions, it can be transformative. Questions matter.

Do you want to explore how Facing History's professional development can help you challenge yourself and connect with other like-minded educators? Check out our calendar for upcoming online courses, workshops, and seminars. 

View the Calendar

Topics: Professional Development, Teaching, Teachers, Holocaust and Human Behavior, workshop

At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you're engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.


Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all