26 February 2010

q & Q

Maya and I had an interesting exchange over lunch today.

It stemmed from a portion of an exercise in
Michael Gelb's book, How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci. In it, Gelb proposes a simple twist on the question each of my children have heard countless times before. The conversation that ensued the posing of said question has gotten me thinking. And thinking. It went something like this:

ME: How was school today, Love?

MAYA: Good.

ME: What questions did you ask?

MAYA: Wait, huh? Wait... um, wait... what questions?

ME: Yes. What questions did you ask at school today?

MAYA: Wait, pardon? Wait... I don't understand. What QUESTIONS?

ME: Yes, Love. What questions did you ask at school today?

MAYA: I didn't ask any questions at school today.

ME: Hmmm
(pregnant -- nine months pregnant -- pause). Well...

(heavy sigh)

ME: How do you learn at school if you don't ask questions?

MAYA: Well (heavier sigh, eye-roll and incredulous stare), Mrs. B just asks US questions, and we tell her the right answers...

I was shocked into cold, wet, sloppy silence by the ice-water bath of her response. It ruffled my feathers, stirred my pot and raised more questions I opted to keep to myself.

1. Why didn't my kindergartner ask questions at school today?
2. What is kindergarten, anyway? The garden of children, right?
3. Since when did gardening become about the answers, especially the "right" ones?
4. What exactly are the "right" answers?
5. What are the questions?
6. When did kindergarten shift from children asking questions to children answering them?
7. What if the questions they're answering aren't "right?"
8. Can the "wrong" questions ever yield the "right" answers?
9. What happens if my children have different questions than the ones being asked?
10. If my daughter went to school to learn today, but after she returned home, she couldn't recall asking a single question all day, what am I teaching her?

I've often heard and recited the adage if you don't like the answers you are getting, perhaps you should consider asking different questions.


I invested most of my formal education, and I've spent much of my life thus far trying to figure out answers to questions. Yet tonight, most of my questions remain. I have scarcely found courage to rest in these questions. But
as I search my heart, my spirit and my soul and consider the monuments in my personal history -- the times when I learned and trusted the most -- when I was most enthused, most alive, most inspired, most inspiring, most confident, most connected and most at peace -- I was not answering questions; I was asking them.

What if the power, the pleasure and the peace of this journey -- our journey -- primarily reside in the questions? What if the questions are the means and the end? What do I do with that? What do we do with that? What can we do with that? What would happen if I redirected my oft-depleted parental energy from answering the daily onslaught of kid-questions to cultivating greater curiosity and courage of my own? What would happen if I shifted my home curriculum from rewarding the "right" answers to nurturing the quest for more questions? What would happen if I arrested my own search for answers altogether and focused on finding more questions instead? What if...

MAYA: I don't want to talk about this anymore, Mom. May I please be excused?

ME: Hmmm? Um... Pardon? Uh... I'm not sure, Love. I guess.... Um, yes. Yes you may.


Juli said...

Mercy T & I were just talking about this yesterday!!!!! I love you abi! and i love questions. my mercy & lucy are fabulous at the questions. i love it.

aimee said...

as an educator, i appreciate this entry, abi.
on a slightly related note, i'm reading a book with my colleagues called, "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success". Not as "self-helpy" as the title suggests. It has some fascinating information about children and learning.

Abi T. said...

Mindset is everything, isn't it? I'd love to search this book out. Thanks for the recommendation.