What's the Best That Could Happen? by Debbie Miller. New Possibilities
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What's the Best That Could Happen?

New Possibilities for Teachers & Readers

“One of the great joys of teaching is anticipating children’s brilliance.”

In What’s the Best That Could Happen?, Debbie Miller confronts a challenge all teachers face: the feeling of being stuck and the fear of trying something new. She explores how questions help us look beyond the limitations of what we’ve done and discover powerful new opportunities for teaching and learning.

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Full Description

What if…

Every year, beloved teacher and author Debbie Miller commits to trying something new. She asks a “beautiful question” that pushes her to see new possibilities and put children at the center of her teaching. She asks, “What if we did it this way?”

“When we do, we’re present in our teaching,” she says. “We’re strong enough to set aside judgment and discomfort and choose to focus on how to make things better.” 

New opportunities for teaching and learning

In What’s the Best That Could Happen?, Debbie confronts a challenge all teachers face: the feeling of being stuck and the fear of trying something new. She explores how questions help us look beyond the limitations of what we’ve done and discover powerful new opportunities for teaching and learning.

Each chapter digs into a question about teaching from Debbie’s work with teachers and children across the country:

  • What if each day’s teaching focused on children’s agency?
  • What if we made what children make and do our priority?
  • What if our classroom environment and routines offered choice?
  • What if we owned the units we’re asked to teach?
  • What if read aloud sustained children’s independent thinking?

You’ll find practical insights and critical understandings that will benefit you and your children. More importantly, you’ll learn to ask your own beautiful questions, grapple with the messiness that surfaces, and find answers that inspire something new and worthy in your teaching.

Join the What's the Best That Could Happen? Facebook group: facebook.com/groups/WhatsTheBest

Podcast

Contents

Introduction: We Can Do This

  • Asking Beautiful Questions
  • Paying Attention to What Doesn't Feel Right
  • Asking, "What If?": Creating Space for Possibility

Chapter One: What If Each Day's Teaching Focused on Children's Agency?

  • Finding Our Way to a Beautiful Question: The Disengaged Child
  • What's the Best That Could Happen? Agency Fosters Engagement
  • Imagining New Possibilities for a Child
  • Conferring to Support Access and Choice
  • Paying Attention During Independent Work Time
  • Conferring to Inquire and to Offer Community
  • Postscript

Chapter Two: What If We Made What Children Make and Do Our Priority?

  • Finding Our Way to a Beautiful Question: Workshop Planning
  • What's the Best That Could Happen? Meaningful Work
  • Planning for What Children Will Do First
  • Planning for What Teachers Will Do During Work Time
  • Figuring Out What to Teach
  • Playing with the Sequence
  • Taking Ownership

Chapter Three: What If Our Classroom Environment and Routines Offered Choice?

  • Finding Our Way to a Beautiful Question: Frustration over Supplies
  • What's the Best That Could Happen? Managing Their Own Work
  • Being Intentional in Our Language
  • Cocreating Routines
  • Designing Agentive Environments

 Chapter Four: What If We Owned the Units We Are Asked to Teach?

  • Finding Our Way to a Beautiful Question: The Units We're Given
  • Are These the Right Goals?
  • Which Texts Work Best?
  • How Will We Know When We're Done?
  • How Can This Happen Within Daily Workshop?
  • What's the Best That Could Happen? Perfection in Imperfection

Chapter Five: What If Read-Aloud Sustained Children's Independent Thinking?

  • Finding Our Way to a Beautiful Question: The Wisdom in Children's Thinking
  • Expecting Brilliance
  • Finding Time for Read-Aloud
  • Reading Aloud for Joy
  • Teachers and Children Thinking Aloud
  • What's the Best That Could Happen? Being Inspired to Act

Conclusion: In Pursuit of Beautiful Questions

In Depth

We all have difficult moments in our teaching, and without a question to drive us forward, we can get stuck. But that difficult moment might be the question we need to ask ourselves. Questions can bring a positive attention, creating a presence in the moment. When I ask children, “Are you the kind of kid who...?”, I’m inviting them to imagine a new possibility for themselves, one in which they have more power than they did before. I want those new possibilities for teachers, too. Are you the kind of teacher who is ready to try something new, something that will make your students stronger, more joyful readers and bring you greater joy in your work? I think you are. 

Asking questions leads to opportunities—it’s about growth, openness, and a willingness to change, which top-down models don’t allow. It’s a way for us to focus our thinking and be present in the lives we’ve chosen to live. Asking the question is the essential behavior of teaching. It’s not a perfect call-and response but a messy business of wondering, stumbling, and figuring things out. It requires bravery and commitment, but that’s what teaching is. It’s a joyful, creative, purposeful profession. If you feel you’ve lost even some of your passion for teaching, I would love to help give it back to you. So, in this book, we’ll talk about creating beautiful questions about the teaching of reading. To help you take on the process of asking beautiful questions, I’ll share how I got to some beautiful questions about teaching reading and what I did with them as I worked with teachers in classrooms across the country. 

This book is about owning our teaching and making decisions based on who we are and what’s best for the children in our classroom today. That all sounds ambitious and brave… and the work is—teaching is—but it happens in so many small and simple ways. My wish is for you to think about what you do and ask your own beautiful questions, so that you and your children can thrive and view yourselves and each other as valuable, idea-filled, creative, and contributing humans who own your teaching and learning. Be open and receptive to possibilities! Think: “What if we did it this way?”

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Reviews

“A one-of-a-kind book, full of wisdom and heart. Debbie Miller inspires educators to step back and question everything—challenging us to rethink and reinvent the ways we teach. What’s the best that could happen? Read this book and it will help you find your own answer to that beautiful question.”

—Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question and The Book of Beautiful Questions

“Debbie Miller is a magician with children, and in What’s the Best That Could Happen? she hands us her magic wand. With honesty, humility, and optimism, she shares her thoughts and actions about teaching and learning. Run—don’t walk—to conjure up this essential book!”

—Stephanie Harvey, coauthor of The Comprehension Toolkit series, From Striving to Thriving, and Strategies That Work

“Debbie Miller is suggesting something revolutionary. She is suggesting the way to ensure all students learn is to intentionally and persistently expect not just capability but brilliance from them.”

—Gretchen Morgan, author of Innovative Educators: An Action Plan for Teachers