I’ve been thinking about the amazing capacity children have to ask questions…and comparing it to the fairly weak ability to question that we, as adults, have. Young children continuously ask ‘Why?’ They ask questions like: ‘Why is the sky blue?’ ‘ How does the moon stay in the sky?’ ‘Why are you cutting the grass?’…and so on. Questioning helps children develop a better understanding of their world. Questioning also helps adults develop a better understanding of their world.
But at some stage along the way, lots of people lose this interest in asking questions. They accept things as they are. The moon stays in the sky and while they may not understand exactly why or how it stays there, it is of little interest to them, unless, of course, it becomes unstuck and begins to roll down at them!
It’s a pity that many of us adults lose that ability to question and to seek the moon. It’s even sadder for those of us who are educators to lose that ability, because, often, our ability to question, can help light the pathways of learning and thinking for the students in our care.
Vicki Davis in her Cool Cat Teacher Blog at http://www.coolcatteacher.com asks that 2014 should be the year of questioning. She says:
Let 2014 be the year we question. We must question why we do things certain ways. Why are desks in a row? Why do we use desks shaped that way? Why do we arrange classrooms a certain way? Why do we do certain things at certain times? Why?
For in asking questions we can uncover our intentions. Are we doing things a certain way because those patterns were put in place decades a go for some reason? Or are we doing those things because we decided that is the right thing to do for our students?
(Read the entire blog at www.coolcattetacher.com)
Let us begin our year by enlightening ourselves and enriching the lives of those we teach by relearning that ability to ask a question…and catch the moon maybe.
I completely agree with Mairin here. There are lots of ways of building on young children’s innate philosophical questioning. One way is to use your literacy time to do what I call “Critical Thinking and Book Talk” CT&BT which involves using picturebooks as a stimulus for generating really good discussions. This has several benefits for the class and teacher alike. It helped me become a critical thinker along with my pupils as outlined in Roche 2007 and 2011! I am in the throes of writing a book about CT&BT – due for publication by Routledge in 2014. NCCA/Aistear have adopted a version of this approach for early learners (http://action.ncca.ie/resource/Childrens-thinking-and-talkiing/65) but it is useful for all agegroups. In fact I even use picturebooks in 3rd level teacher education in my Philosophy of Education module.
An interesting blog, which I’ve only just read. It prompted two reflections for me. One was from an early childhood teacher in a tertiary course I was also a student in once, who asked: “What is the education system doing wrong, that the questioning I always see in my children has vanished by the time they get to university and is replaced by a tendency just to want to know how to pass the exams?” A good question indeed!
The Davis quote reminded me of an excellent essay I read back in the day. I’m sure it was from Ira Shor, and was entitled something like “The classroom chair as an instrument of political repression” but despite googling it just now, I’m not picking up a reference for you. In that essay, he unpicked deeper philosophical reasons why cheap and uncomfortable furniture might be used, when it’s not what we’d want ourselves. Perhaps minor, but Michel Foucault also looked at the design of spaces, both literal and figurative, and how they operate to keep people in subjection.
Thanks Pip! Those ideas seem very pertinent to my concerns. I’d love to locate that Shor essay if you ever find it.