Ah, it’s a new year! I’m back to blogging after a much needed break. Recently I was reading an article published on the Huffington Post highlighting a thread from reddit on the stupidest thing you’ve ever had to explain to someone. While the article only highlighted 9 things, I followed the link to the reddit conversation that was literally thousands and thousands of posts. (Warning: some of the langauge is a bit unsavory.)
As I read through them two things struck me. 1) Many of the misconceptions that people held, such as Alaska was an island or New Mexico was part of Mexico, were developed in school. 2) There were a sadly large number of people who told stories of trying to “correct” a teacher’s misconception who were then punished in some way.
I doubt that many people have really had the opportunity to benefit from an inquiry style of teaching. A school where children’s questions were honored, supported, and welcomed. A education where they were taught to find answers to their questions and to seek out information. A place where conflicting information was addressed and analyzed. A classroom where the teacher didn’t always think they they were (or had to be) right. If they had, they might have stopped to wonder about why buffalo wings aren’t really buffalo and where that terminology came from.
As we go forward into this new year let’s promise to not only honor, but encourage our students to ask those questions. Let’s remember to create a safe space for them, because it’s okay if a child doesn’t know that Alaska isn’t an island. Let’s teach them how to find answers and justify them with evidence because we know that simply telling a child that something is incorrect doesn’t make them believe it. If they are to learn it they will need to discover and adjust their misconception themselves. Let us also remember that it’s okay to say that we don’t have an answer, and treat that as a great opportunity to model how we go about finding answers to our questions about the world around us.