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“The 5 Questions”: Life Lessons Learned from the Classroom



Around year 3 or 4 of my elementary teaching career, my school brought in a guest speaker who specialized in classroom management. In order to keep the whole school on the same page, every time (EVERY.TIME.) a staff member saw a student doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing, we asked them “The 5 Questions”.

Yes, it got tedious, but the kids got just as tired of answering the 5 questions as we got tired asking them. After a few months, we saw a HUGE improvement in behavior. For all of you dying to know what the magic questions are…

  1. What are you doing?
  2. What are you supposed to be doing?
  3. Are you doing that?
  4. What is the consequence for this right now?
  5. What will the consequence be next time this happens?


You might be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with me?” or “Why is this lady posting a classroom management blog on a gym’s web page?” These are great questions! The more I asked these questions to my students, the more I realized they had practical uses in my life as well. Here are four life lessons I’ve learned for how to get through times when the struggle is real.

Lesson 1: Change takes time!
This process works, it really works. We did not see change in the kids right away; in fact, some kids would push our buttons to see if we would actually follow through with asking the questions. Ask yourself these questions every time – EVERY.TIME. Yes, it will get frustrating, yes it will get annoying, but soon you’ll find yourself having to ask them less and less.

Lesson 2: Kids know what they’re doing wrong, so do you.
Rules, by nature, are simple.  As long as it’s not the first couple months of kindergarten, students know to raise their hand before they speak, they know not to take Sarah’s pencil without asking, and they know pushing Derek at the playground is a big no-no. Diet and exercise are not rocket science either. Eat less, move more. Eat this, not that. You know the “rules”; you know you should grab carrots instead of donuts. You’re human; you’re not perfect – you will fail.

Lesson 3: Admitting you’re wrong is hard.  It’s hard when you’re 5, it’s hard when you’re 35.  Do it anyway. Allow yourself to fail, it has to be OK. I am so passionate about this! Just don’t get comfortable there; what are you going to do about it? Question 3 was often the hardest for kids to answer. It’s the simplest question! Are you doing what you know you’re supposed to be doing? If I’m asking the question in the first place, the answer to question three is always going to be “no”. No one wakes up saying, “I want to be wrong today. Let’s see how many mistakes I can make.” However, having a caring teacher (or fitness practitioner) as a safe person to admit your mistakes to is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself. It is the foundation of accountability and it starts with admitting you’re wrong.

Lesson 4: Setting your own consequences is POWERFUL.  Having someone hold you accountable to them is everything.
Not every kid responded the same way to the same consequence. You’d think the Johnny’s world would end if I called his mom, but Suzie could care less. Suzie would do just about anything to not miss recess, but Jason didn’t really like recess anyway. Bottom line, everyone is different. Choose a consequence that will really dig deep and push you toward your goal. Then tell someone and have them hold you to it. “Brooke, if I don’t hit my WLS attendance goal this month, I will buy you dinner.” Or “Chris, if I don’t turn in every food log until my next assessment, I will donate $100 to a charity of your choice.” Or “Bailey, I’ve been doing poorly with my protein goal. I need you to change my Facebook password until I am consistent with getting 30 grams of protein per meal.” Ask your practitioner to hold you accountable, ask your spouse or your kids or your BFF… Life is hard, don’t do it alone.


So, the next time you find the self-discipline struggle to be real, find a friend, then ask yourself “The 5 Questions”.

  1. What are you doing?
  2. What are you supposed to be doing?
  3. Are you doing that?
  4. What is the consequence for this right now?
  5. What should the consequence be if I have to stop you again?

Change can be scary, but it’s less scary with someone who cares.

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