Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Value of Wondering

In Steve Wheeler's blog post from back in May, he describes a time when he asked a question in class. Years later, his memory is vivid: "[The teacher] looked at me with contempt, told me I had asked a 'stupid question' and then made a big joke out of it. The whole class laughed at me, and I went bright red with embarrassment. I was only 8 years old, but I can still recall how it felt. It taught me a lesson. I never asked another question in class throughout the whole of my school life."

I too, had a complete aversion to asking questions in school, based on something a fifth grade teacher told us time and again: "I have told you everything you need to know. If you ask me a question and it's something you should already know, it means that you weren't paying attention, and you'll have to stay after school." I was one of those kids who were preternaturally afraid of getting in trouble, and earnestly believed whatever my teacher said, so I learned never to raise my hand (unless I had the right answer to something SHE had asked, of course). I was actively taught to not wonder, which for me meant that I learned not to think very deeply. I was in grad school before I learned to ask any kind of meaningful question or to wonder deeply about things. Being afraid to ask a question must be one of those universal fears, akin to public speaking.

Many of the things I deal with on a day to day basis involve the questions for which either I or someone else already has an easy answer: "Don't forget to click the 'Publish' button when you're done." "The handout you need is on our web site - I'll send you the direct link." "I know a great app that could help you with that problem." They're the Google-y kinds of questions, those that have a readily available answer.

But more often, the hard questions take time and effort to address. I try to respect the questioning and wondering process, as Rainer Maria Rilke admonished:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
I find that it is true that, given time, I can often wonder myself right on in to a challenging question's solution, particularly if I have the opportunity to wonder along with others and the luxury of time to think. The solution doesn't often come quickly and the ultimate decision is arrived at after many unsuccessful attempts. I don't like the failure part much, but I know the whole being-patient-in-your-heart thing  works.

So I expect to wonder  into answers about how to explain the SAMR ladder and how to provide effective professional learning experiences and how to convince teachers that it would be okay to let kids read something without assessing them. I don't expect those answers to come today (although that would be great!) but I am confident that the answers will make themselves known in time. The important thing is to continue to do the right kind of wondering and questioning. Even if it seems like something I should maybe already know.

1 comment:

  1. As an introvert, I find comfort in wondering, and I appreciate being given time to do so. As a teacher, I agree that we need to give our students time to think and wonder knowing that the value in that process can be far more valuable than a "right answer." And I can totally relate to you as I do not like failure much either. I have to remember to "fail often to succeed sooner." Love your post! Thank you for sharing!

    I Love 2 Teach