Why Are You Questioning Me?

Why are you questioning me?

This is the thought that runs through my 1750+ students minds each day as their teachers push them to dig deeper through the line of questioning thrown their direction.

Rigor. Probably one of the most overused terms in the educational arena.

You see, when people talk about rigor in the classroom they often fail to define it. To me it is simple. Rigor can be defined as effective teaching and learning. In my building it means the type of teaching and learning that makes the student’s brains hurt. I want to share with you, as I did with my faculty this past week that getting there – getting to this place of terrorizing student brains – is not that difficult.

It begins with questions.

  • What does an effective question look like?
  • How does an open-ended question have a greater impact on rigor?
  • Why do both the follow-up and persistence of the questions you ask matter?

What Does an Effective Question Look Like?

It is about the hook.


Take this image from Tiananmen Square, for example. Put this up for students to view and you can begin to dig deep on several elements in the photography – I could ask about the people, the setting, the engagement, etc… The more provocative the image – the better questions you can build.

Some questions I might ask:

  • What is happening in this image?
  • Why do you think someone might do something like you see here?
  • What do you think happens next?
  • If you were there, what do you think you would have seen or heard?
  • Is there anything in your lives that you would stand up for to this degree?

You can lead the students exactly where you want them to go with the line of questioning you ask. This can be done in any subject area as well. I might show an Ebola ravaged village when questioning about cell reproduction in Biology; I might show a Matthew Brady image from the Civil War when directing the Emancipation Proclamation in English; I might show any one of Dan Meyer’s 3 Act Math images in Mathematics.

How Does an Open-Ended Question Have a Greater Impact on Rigor?

Open-ended questions allow us to open up the conversation in the classroom. Sticking with my Tiananmen Square image… lets look at these two questions.

  1. Is the subject of the photo standing up for something?
  2. What are some reasons that you think might make a human being stand in front of an armored tank?

Q1 is simple. The most common answer – Yes. You may get something a little more – but the conversation and answers are likely to be low level and lead to nowheresville.

Q2 will take you to great new heights. Students are going to engage in answers that are going to lead to new questions about the topic. This is the sign that you are asking the right questions and taking students to deeper levels.

Why Do Both the Follow-Up and Persistence of the Questions You Ask Matter?

Do not let students off the hook. When questioning in the classroom – make a habit of asking follow-ups. This is especially true of students that often give the “I don’t know”. Come back to your “I don’t know” students often with follow-ups.

Persistence. Letting students know that they will not ever be let off the hook is essential. Persist with your students – especially those whom are hesitant of answering. Building a culture of comfort and safety when answering questions will also help. If students know that when they enter your classroom that you are persistent – they will be on their toes.

Try these simple strategies when questioning students in your classrooms. I promise that it will push your conversations deeper into content and take students to higher levels of thinking.

Go ahead, make their brains hurt.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.


Blog has been a little quiet lately. I have been busy handling some changes…

Tonight I was honored to be named Principal of the lowest performing comprehensive high school in Osceola County… on paper. But, my students and staff are anything but. I have 1700 students that, when the bar is raised, will rise to meet and exceed. My staff works long hours educating students on ever changing standards, meanwhile filling in gaps of years worth of knowledge. Lots of people think that they can teach – and the truth is they can’t. It’s not an easy gig. The work we have ahead of us is hard and long – but when complete our students, staff, and school will be all the better for it. 

As for the low performing part – this past year we doubled our FAFSA completion rates, saw a double digit increase in percentage of four year college acceptances, and have students immersed in a college going culture.

I could not be more excited for this journey to begin. It’s going to be hard work, but… It’s what we do.

Thanks to my mom, my wife, Angela Meechin (the best teacher I know) for all her sacrifice for me, and some profound educators that left a mark on me – Wendy Venza, Jane Nagle, William McGuinness, and Katrina Burnot.

Here we go.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Signing Day

On May 1, my school held one of our most important days of the school year. It was Signing Day.

Many people may say, Signing Day? Did they choose the Gators, Seminoles… who are they playing for? But, I have to stop them. Our Signing Day is not about athletics, but rather academics. May 1st every year is College Decision Day, and we celebrate our Seniors that have been accepted to college or have post-secondary plans.

Signing Day

We are in our second year of this tradition and we doubled the number of acceptances from last year. The process is simple. We invite all of our accepted students to our Signing Day ceremony. There they meet with their peers and we acknowledge each post-secondary institution and those accepted. Students sign a certificate that states their commitment to the importance of post-secondary education.

Each signing we cheer, celebrate, cry, and lift each other up. It has become one of the most important events to me personally. I hope that you can take this idea and bring it to your school. In the meantime, check out my College and Career Counselor, the @theeducounselor on Twitter.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Research: Grad Rate vs. Fail Rate

I’ll say it. I love grading and assessment. I do. I love it.

I have been wanting for a while to complete some research on grading practices, their impact on failure rates in high schools, and further – how those failure rates impact high school graduation rates. I am preparing for a session for the ASCD National Conference (which I am hoping will be accepted) on my beliefs about how fail rates are an overlooked key data point that can be used to predict high school graduation rates.

But… I need you help (and the help of your network).

Below is a very informal (100% anonymous) research input form. I am not using all of the formalities that you will often see associated with educational research (that will come later). If you are an educational leader or know an educational leader please share this post with them. I need their input.

I am really hoping that ASCD will realize the importance of this data and accept my proposal – I think that this work is so important. If you are able to help, I would greatly appreciate it. The simple form is below.

If you would prefer to share the link please use: http://bit.ly/mcgfailresearch.

Questions? As always you can contact me using the contact information on my site.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.

Power of Immediate Feedback

The most important support that I can provide to my faculty is feedback. It is essential in all that we do in my building. It is something that I work to do more – provide faculty with quality, timely feedback on what I see in their classrooms.

Like many schools, out leadership team focuses on getting into many classrooms per week. Because time is something that is an issue in every school – we developed a system that we think meets everyone’s needs. We developed a Google Form, which you can see a demo of below. The form is customized to what we need for our teachers, students and school. We love Google Forms for two major reasons:

  1. The form is 100% customizable and can be adapted as our needs change
  2. The analytics and metrics that we receive are invaluable; we can walk classrooms and look at data in our admin meeting the same afternoon

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However, we had a major issue. While the administration was getting the data, the teachers were not getting the feedback. We were often having to do additional work by sending an email or typing feedback into our evaluation system to get it to the teacher. This process takes too long and required double the work.

Enter, autoCrat; an add-on that lives in Google Drive.

This add-on takes a feedback form template that we created and merges all of the data from the Google Form right into that document and emails it to us as soon as we click submit. We can then simply forward the email to the teacher of the classroom that we walked and done. Often, the teachers have a PDF document sitting in their inbox before I ever leave the classroom.

It is like magic. You can try it out below. Click the link and complete the Google Form, which is modeled off of the WT protocol that we use in my building. Once you submit, you will receive an email with the PDF feedback form instantly.

Link to Demo Walkthrough Protocol Form: http://bit.ly/demowtprotocol

I work with schools and districts to customize this process to meet their needs and train their administrators on the process. For more info check out: http://www.meechincg.com.

For DIYers, you can check out @principaldurham and his article that details the process here.

Mike Meechin, M.Ed.

For more information about having Mike speak at your school or district, click the “Book Mike” link under Work With Me.