Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Asking Questions

Anyone who has been around young children for any length of time can tell you about their fondness for asking questions. This video reminds me a bit what my life is like on any given car ride:

My boys are 9 and 6. Questions are asked on any given day. Last year my then 8 year old asked me where babies came from. I explained. Then he asked what someone would do if there were two men or two women married – what would they do? I explained surrogacy and adoption. That moved us to why our neighbor’s kids were adopted since there was a man and a women in that marriage. My main reaction was to tease my husband for being out instead of home answering this barrage of questions with me.

Some of the other questions I’ve been asked in the last few days:

Do people choose to be gay?

Why do some states refuse to allow gay people to marry?

Is that bullying?

Do dogs go to heaven?

What is heaven like for people?

Does dying hurt?

Am I afraid to die?

When Daddy and I die, where will my boys go?

Should they Skype my parents to tell them to come get them?

How much longer will our dog live?

When she dies, can we get two puppies?

What type of dogs will we get?

Did people come from evolution or Adam and Eve?

What year was it when the dinosaurs were here?

Was it year one?

Do people still find dinosaur bones?

If we found one, would we get a lot of money?

And on, and on. Questions begot more questions. Some I knew answers to, some I didn’t. Often I answered, “ What do you think? We need to look that up.” Sometimes I would hand my iPhone back and tell them to research it as we drove.

Today’s shopping trip was about a ½ an hour drive from home. As I drove past cornfields and farms I thought about my sons and their never ending sets questions. I loved that they were so inquisitive; their thirst for knowledge is limitless. Now my sons are a bit younger than my students, but where are their questions? I get a few but not a ton.

But then I reconsidered the traditional classroom. We ask a question – usually with one answer we are looking for. The teacher is considered the main source of knowledge. One person is speaking at a time. We have to stay on task. Teachers don’t often admit if they don’t know the answer. The teacher retains the power.

That isn’t the way conversations work with my sons. I often admit I don’t know the answers. When we talk about a question and an answer, we have a discussion where all opinions are heard. We are all equal in the conversation– my first grader had an answer to one of the third graders questions today. We are on multiple conversation threads at a time.

Today’s drive was a good reminder to me, my students need to be thinking beyond right and wrong questions. I love that I teach within the workshop model, I think that is a start. But I want to keep pursuing it. I think helping my students with the process of inquiry, I am teaching my students, and my sons, to be in charge of their own learning.