As I approach on my bike, a woman standing on the corner asks, "Which way to the beach?" She points to different streets shooting out in different angles, though both lead to the ocean.
I point to the shorter distance, though I assure her either path will do. She thanks me and moves forward with purpose.
As I peddle off, I'm struck by the irony that something so clear to me isn't to the woman. Perhaps it shouldn't be called irony. Perhaps it is simply familiarity or not.
When we know where we're going, or know where we've been, the way is clear, and if asked, we can share our knowledge.
This simple paradigm often fails in a classroom. Because I created the assignment or studied the text ten times, or expected the students to prepare, I think they have the same clarity. My familiarity fogs my ability to see others' comprehension or lack thereof. So, I appreciate immensely the student who will raise her hand and ask "What do you mean? I don't understand?" or "Could you explain that one more time?"
I repeatedly tell my students education needs a paradigm shift. Questions are what lead to truth; inquiry brings discovery, yet everyone is afraid to ask questions. Perhaps it is because we live too tightly under our own bubble. We are unaware of how much we don't know- all those tantalizing, uplifting, mind-blowing, details-facts-experiences waiting to be explored--if only we asked.
Or perhaps we asked a person who chided us for not knowing where the beach was because it was so obvious.
Obvious can be a blinding word.
Do you remember the last time you asked a question and the responder said, "Great question." It made you feel like a kid, didn't it? For just a split second it took you back to your innocent self that swelled with pride when you were validated by an adult. It doesn't matter how old we are- everyone appreciates positive affirmation.
With the same patience we respond to a tourist, or to an inquiring student, we need to respond to the person who makes a rude remark, a hasty conclusion, who may show intolerance of our gender, our religion, our race, our thoughts. This behavior is like answering "questions" because there is an unknown, a missing piece of knowledge. Most likely he is oblivious to his degrading behavior. He hasn't learned or hasn't been taught. He's unaware his actions are questions in need of guidance and a need to be shown the right direction.
This question requires patience and example, firmness and courage.