There are days when the business of teaching and learning feels like heading out on the Starship Enterprise for a mission to discover new life and new civilizations. Other days we do reading quizzes. With absolute truth in advertising, sometimes these happen on the same day. Education is a spicy, salty, and sweet salmagundi of flavors, where the wild abandon of an egg drop in physics can be accompanied by students engaging in serious mathematical computations and logical explanations about what happened that would make Spock proud.
So this week, when the #YourEdustory prompt asked “Are you a Wonder Junkie or Answer Seeker?” my first thought was: Yes.
Cultivating a sense of wonder is, or should be, a cornerstone of education. Schools at their best are workshops of creativity and curiosity. Harnessing the innate exuberance of students is what good teachers do best. Kids want to know, want to believe, and want not only to find relevance to their lives, but also want to expand the idea of what their lives can become.
Students also want, unapologetically, to know answers.
When we provide them with both information and inspiration, students’ learning soars.
The #YourEdustory prompt had a second part: “How can we embrace being lost?”
Great teachers, I thought, do this all the time.
A philosophy major, I think of Plato’s dialogues. His character Socrates makes a method out of asking questions in pursuit of answers. No, not answers, knowledge. Donning the appearance of someone lost, Socrates leads his students through questions that help them wander in, around, and through the topic at hand, finally reaching some sort of greater understanding of the big idea they were talking about.
I see amazing teachers do this in their classrooms every week. One of my favorite examples comes from a wildly engaging Integrated Math teacher who often asks her students two questions that would make Socrates smile: “What do you notice?” and “What do you wonder?”
What beautiful questions, answerable for all students, even those lost at the time, and helpful for all to consider as they wander through the material together.
And yet, I believe that Tolkien was right when he coined that bumper sticker worthy phrase: “Not all those who wander are lost.”
Engaging in productive struggle around an idea or concept doesn’t have to mean feeling adrift. Embracing the disequilibrium of not knowing …yet, but believing that an answer is there to find is the perfect combination of a sense of wonder and commitment to answers. A little something like Star Trek.
Wonder junkie of answer seeker?