Wednesday, October 3, 2007

More questions than answers~

What sets teaching apart from most jobs, besides motherhood, is the amount of questions teachers get asked during the day. I can think of few jobs designed to be so question oriented. Kids are supposed to ask questions. Teachers encourage this.

"Are there any questions?" we prompt.

We tell students that there is no such thing as a stupid question.

"How are you going to learn if you don't ask?" we say.

And I love questions--both asking and answering them.

I encourage my students to be curious. "I hope you always have more questions, than answers," I say. "Being inquisitive is what leads to new discoveries."

Today after reading about natural resources, we discussed wind power. One boy asked about the turbines. How heavy were they? Did they have to be light so the wind would turn them?

This brought on a discussion of aerodynamics and force and airborne things. I ended up demonstrating Bernoulli's principle. Later the boy who posed the question asked if he could do some research on the computer. I love that kind of curiosity.

But then there are all the other questions. The ones I seem to answer over and over until I want to bang my head against my desk.

All of these questions have been addressed many times, answered in detail, explained as part of the class routine to be followed from day one. Why do they persist in asking again and again as if my answer will change?

Student: Do we have to write in cursive?
Me: What do I always say?

Student: I'm done. Where do I put my paper?"
Me: Where do you always put your papers?

Student: Can I use the other side of my paper if I need more space?
Me: (silence) I stare with raised eyebrows.

I get asked umpteen thousand nonsense questions every day. I answer with questions of my own. Kids need to be reminded to stop and think, to look around, to remember. To see that they can answer most of their own questions with a little common sense and thought.

I've taped a sign to my desk-- a rule. "Ask 3 before you ask me. I'm not the only human resource in this room I tell them. Ask others first."

Student: Mrs. D, where are the scissors? (This from a child who is sitting between two friends who are using scissors.)
Me: Who did you ask before you asked me?

Sometimes not answering is best. But woe to the poor kid who places the straw on my back with a question I've asked "ten thousand times already."
It is not every question that deserves an answer. Publius Syrus


Janice Thomson said...

I like how you handle the children by guiding them to be more resourceful.

I would never make a good teacher as I remember at times feeling a bit frustrated with my own children's questions :) I was sure they asked more than any other child in the world. Interestingly enough I have asked my own fair share of questions over the years...

Ruth D~ said...

My own kids used to complain about my teacher ways. When they asked where the peanut butter was, I'd reply, "Where do you think it would be?" They'd say, just tell me, Mom. Stop making us think. It paid off. :>) They also accused me of going into a trance when I was reading. They could ask me anything and I'd say "Um hum!"

rain said...

My mother could carry on a conversation and never stop reading her book! I think a good teacher must have more patience than anyone on earth.

Ruth D~ said...

Hi there...
I commented on your latest blog last night but it didn't show..maybe I didn't do
it 'right'. I was laughing about your latest entry b/c I felt like I was right
down the hall from you....and your shoe/pencil policy and the inquiry questions.
The kids loved those, loved that kind of 'homework'.

Good weekend to you... ;-)

I decided to post your comment this way, Jen.

I have a feeling that this post will be most appreciated by other teachers in the trenches. You have to be there to get it. I know you do. :>)