What if?

by Eric Hill, Professional Development Specialist

Each morning, my four-year-old son and I play a game he calls, “What if?” on the way to school. The game is simple, one person gets to say, “What if…” and then we go back and forth on what it would be like if that statement were true. “What if ice sank instead of floated?” “What if humans could fly?” It is the perfect way to start the day and for us to connect and enjoy one another’s company each morning. What’s more, it reminds me how creative, imaginative, and thoughtful kids are and the importance of creating opportunities to foster those habits of mind each and every day, not to mention the value in fostering that creativity in our own lives and practice (Costa & Kallick, 2008).

As a child, I was grateful to be given the opportunity to dream and imagine each and every day. Growing up in a family that was engaged in the community, participating in the Boy Scouts, playing on several sports teams, and playing with the neighborhood kids kept me active. It also gave me opportunities to dream, inspired me to want more, and taught me to question the status quo and ask, “What if?” That boundary pushing, barrier breaking, inquisitive nature is what has come to define me and my dispositions for teaching and learning.

As Dr. Jim Rickabaugh discusses in the white paper, Learner Independence Continuum, I believe that when students authentically engage in learning, which may be structured and scaffolded with or by students based on their interest, readiness, or pace, AND when learning is not limited by time, place or curriculum, AND we give students opportunities to own their work and the learning process, as well as share it in meaningful ways, THEN we are engaging, educating, equipping, and empowering students for their future.

With this in mind, I wonder how often we truly remove all barriers, agendas, and structures and let students ask, “What if?” It is essential that we create these opportunities for students and not stifle their creativity and inquisitive nature. I was lucky enough to have access to opportunities that encouraged the development of these habits of mind throughout my childhood, but as educators we know that such opportunities are not equitable for every student. As such, it becomes our responsibility to create such an environment, and with that responsibility comes opportunity to make positive change.

If this idea or disposition is challenging for you, maybe your entry point is playing the “What if” game as an ice breaker at the beginning of class. Imagine though… What if this became your framework for a lesson or a unit? What if this became the foundation of your classroom culture?

What if?


This blog is the first in a series of blogs, with the theme of “What if?” If you have a topic you would like Eric to reflect on and write about in this series, please email him your ideas at ehill@institute4pl.org.



Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick. (2008). Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind. ASCD.

Rickabaugh, James. (2012). Learning Independence Continuum. The Institute for Personalized Learning at CESA #1.