Posing questions

With Valentine’s Day on Monday, let me share the most quoted exchange between me and my husband during this season:

Anne-Marie: “Hey Kevin. Want to go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day?”

Kevin: “Who? Me and you?”

When I think of all the questions that have been asked of me, believe me, that one remains the most memorable! Much to my husband’s embarrassment, because he really is a loving guy, I often remind him that he lacked a certain romantic flair at that particular moment. His question disproves the saying that there is no such thing as a dumb question, and it has become code for us whenever we think a question is dumb. We whisper, “Who? Me and you?” and still find it funny every time.

Questions are important and I am drawn to people who pose thoughtful questions. Being in the business of learning and school improvement, I see the power of questions. In fact, I often tell my kids that I care more about the questions they ask, than the marks they get. And I am often stunned by what they ask – on a recent drive, Jacob asked if the Eiffel Tower was built to be a decoration or if it had a purpose. Why does a child think about that? (In case you have that same question, the tower was built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair).

Recognizing the value of questions, our Board spent time in advance of this week’s meeting developing good ones. They wanted to be sure that their time together addressed the biggest and most important issues.

The Governance Committee, chaired by Tina Woodside, is committed to the question of how to be a ‘best practice Board.’ Anne Birmingham gave a workshop of the “Five Key Areas of Effective Governance in Not-for-profit Boards.”

Peter Sturrup, Chair of the Standards Council, is working on the strategic priority around membership. He asked “What is our ideal size?”.

Bob Snowden, Chair of the Strategic Planning Task Force, asked if the most strategic priorities had been identified for our first year of our strategic plan implementation.

Kim MaGee, who chaired our Professional Development Task Force last year, lead a generative discussion around our vision of leadership. The Board spent considerable time on this question: We have a new vision statement to be the ‘voice of excellence in learning and leadership.’ What will that look like?

Great Boards recognize that posing questions is as important as answering them. Determining the right questions may even be more important than the answers. In the case of our national organization, the Board is off to a great start.

In thinking about today’s topic, I asked myself the following question: just how many years have Kevin and I been celebrating Valentine’s Day together?  It was a joy to discover that this year is our 20th.

Maybe this year, he will ask the question: “Hey Anne-Marie. Want to go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day?” I already know my response…

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