Updated: May 16
Many children ask questions, all types and at all times. Often, the temptation that adults or parents face is to respond with a textbook answer or brush it off with a vague response. While this is the easier option, it is not the best one. One of the greatest gifts that a child has is curiosity. Often, as we age, this inquisitiveness will disappear. This is for two reasons:
We learn as we grow, and no longer need to ask questions about certain things.
We lose that child-like interest, our natural curiosity, for knowing everything there possibly is to know.
While the first one is a natural occurrence, because we do learn as we mature, the second reason is often one that can be manipulated or controlled by ourselves. While it certainly is not a feasible achievement to learn absolutely everything there is to know, the desire for learning is what is key, an integral part of any student's, or individual’s, learning. This desire to learn, to know, to have an answer, is just as important as teaching long division or proper grammatical skills.
The attached essay, which was written in first year teacher's college, speaks to this dilemma exactly. How to encourage students to learn? How to encourage students to think? How to light that fire? The answer is through, quite simply, engagement. Although there are many ways to engage students in their own learning, interpretive discussion is one such way of engagement that ranks high on the scale of effectiveness. Here's the catch: interpretive discussion is not something that can just be thrown into the wind, a fly-by-night tactic. There has to be a foundation there, a baseline, one that is built on critical thinking and problem solving skills, along with a hefty dose of socialization, communication, and creative abilities. These are the soft skills that so many students, in today's world, are lacking.
The public school system is not designed to teach these types of soft skills to students. There are simply not enough resources, not enough teachers, and not enough emphasis on the importance of these competencies. Instead, it is left to parents to teach their children these things.
One thing to remember, above all: encourage curiosity in your children, or your students. Encourage the questions they ask. Encourage their wonderings. Be honest with them if you don't know the answer – nothing screams confidence like an adult who can admit to a child that they don't know something. Adopt an attitude of "Let's learn together" rather than an attitude of "It is not my job to learn any longer, but to impart knowledge to you." Children who see positive role models of knowledge and exploration are far more likely to continue these patterns of learning into their adult years.
After all, isn't that what we as a society want? Informed, intelligent, questioning adults, with a burning desire to learn beyond school? A generation of critical and creative thinkers? An age of inventors, of independent thinkers who move outside the box? Who consistently stretch imagination, move beyond boundaries, and test new ideas and concepts? Imagine how great our society could be, in just one or two generations!
It all starts with a question...
Your kids naturally have great ideas. Let them explore these. Let them chase their interests. Let them be creative. Let them just...be themselves. You won't regret it.
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