The Power of a Question: Recapping My Return to In-Person Conferences

October 29, 2021 by Stephanie Garcia

Last week, Stephanie Garcia from our coaching and change management team attended the New York Charter School Association Conference in New York City. Read on for Steph’s thoughts from the experience:

In all honesty, given the education field’s chaotic climate right now, I truly did not know what to expect. What resulted was a revival of my passion for expanding my network and asking questions. Given the variety of challenges that exist, ranging from the attack on critical race theory to the bus driver staffing shortage, I saw firsthand how simple questions can reignite compassion and our willingness to support one another. 

Beginning conversations at this conference with ‘how are you?’ developed new relationships, offered comfort, and challenged thinking. With this basic intro and a willingness to listen and respond authentically, I met phenomenal leaders who shared their setbacks, triumphs, and core belief in the need for equitable education. I learned about a school leader coming to terms with her white privilege and sharing that vulnerability with her team. I drew inspiration from a teacher whose family migrated from another country for a better life. I challenged a CEO’s emerging viewpoints around systemic inequity. I was awestruck by a parent who questioned her school about funding for her child. I empathized with a single parent of 3 who has confronted her own trauma to shed light on the challenges facing her community. I was invigorated by the BIPOC educators rising into decision-making positions to disrupt narratives that perpetuate harm. Ultimately, I was comforted by all the conversations aligned to the goal of empowering students and families. 

How might the power of simple questions support your work? Imagine what such lines of dialogue can open up in our learners. You can check in with them and become curious about their stories. You can deepen their understanding on a range of concepts within the classroom. You can crack open an aspiration waiting to make its debut. And by modeling questioning as a valid way to engage with material, we prioritize shifting the cognitive load to our students. For more information and strategies, check out these time-honored articles from KQED and The Teachers Digest.


Stephanie Garcia is a Partner at Highlander Institute supporting schools through coaching and change management. She is based in New York City. To learn more, follow her on Instagram @educatingwithsazón and Twitter @Stephgarcia_16

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