Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ask

I am waiting to check my grandson into preschool, when a man and his daughter hurry up behind me.

 "Excuse me Ma'am. Do you know how to put on a headband?"

Do I ever.

I slip the band over her head, around her neck, then ease it upward, carefully tucking her hair into place.  She snuggles it past her ears.

It's a skill so simple, I take it for granted.  Sometimes, when something is second nature, we assume it is to everyone else too.

The IT guy at school sent out an email months ago with instructions concerning a certain IT protocol. I didn't remember the months old policy and sent him a question he'd already addressed.  He responded that he'd already sent out the information.

Instead of feeling incompetent, or guilty for my faux pas, the experience actually reminded me of a simple truth. I replied and thanked IT Tom for helping me see why my students ask the same questions over and over when it is so clear to me--it isn't clear to them; it's my job to be more clear, and so what if they ask again and again. Questions are a way to clarify and to understand.

Question asking has become almost a shameful effort. We are embarrassed to admit we don't get it.

I reiterate to my students that school is not a place where we know the answers; it is a place to explore, to guess, to synthesize, in order to find the right answer. I often raise my voice with passion, "Take a risk!" when trying to get a student to respond. Eventually, the ideas and hypothesis start to roll.

The best environments create questions and inquiry. They are places where we are free to say, "I don't know," or "I'm curious," or "Help me understand." Even, "Let's start over," and especially, "Explain to me how you see it."

The magic word: ask.

The magic response: patience.