My students know that I love questions. Little questions, big questions, rhetorical questions, and even smartass questions. Fewer things make me happier than answering a question.
Mostly, I think I admire what it takes to ask a question.
Asking a question is a vulnerable act, but a powerful one.
As much as we like to think of ourselves as blank canvases awaiting a (ever increasingly complete) picture, our brains rebel against “blank spaces”. For many people, they will use their imagination to fill in these gaps. I am constantly fascinated how people will invent memories/details/conversations to fill in things they don’t know.
We know that these mechanisms are there, and it takes a certain amount of humility and self awareness to recognize that what a person “knows” is incomplete or incorrect. It takes courage to say “I don’t know,” even though it is by far the most intellectually honest answer, and one of the most useful statements that leads to discovery.
Now, hopefully when it comes to quiz time our students have at least a minimal idea as to where to start. But even if they don’t know where to start, I’m happy to receive these questions.
I think the most powerful emotional experiences as a teacher is looking at my class I realizing, at some level, all of my students have said to themselves “I don’t know this, and I want to.” When I am looking in despair at the world that pretends to knowledge it doesn’t have, I get to work with people who understand this about themselves, and are working to improve themselves.
I sometimes talk about how frustrating it can be to grade papers, or go to pointless meetings, or figure out yet another way of explaining my subject matter. Ultimately, I love my students. They deserve answers, as best as I can give them.