Thursday, February 2, 2012
Would you like a sticker on your head or an answer with that question?
When my sister and I were young, we had some incredible teachers - really incredible. This story, however, isn't about one of those. This is about a well-meaning young teacher who hadn't quite thought things through . . .
My sister, Jodi, was in the first grade and loved school. She would come home excited every day and tell us the highlights of life at Gaines Elementary School. She loved learning and she loved her teacher. Her only disappointment was that she never 'got a sticker' on her forehead. I remember my Mom and Dad weren't sure why she couldn't get the sticker on her forehead, but they knew she really, really wanted one. She wanted a sticker on her head like all of the other kids. She would tell us every afternoon how hard she tried to get the sticker, but it just never worked.
It appeared that the sticker on the forehead was some reward for being a good student or finishing your work on time or showing politeness - we weren't sure - we just knew that Jodi really wanted one and she was trying hard every day.
Finally, finally one day she came in from school with a great big smile and a sticker on her forehead! It was a wonderful celebration, and we were all so happy for her! She had finally gotten the sticker; she had figured out how to get it, how to please the teacher, how to make it in the first grade.
Over dinner that night, my folks asked lots of questions to try to figure out how she finally got the sticker. I remember when one of them asked the question that helped the first grader finally figure out how to explain how she did it - and I remember the look of surprise and disgust on the faces of my parents when the sticker secret was revealed.
"Oh, I finally got the sticker on my forehead like everybody else, 'cause I didn't ask any questions all day!"
You read that right - great educational tool, huh? I'm not sure if that poor first year teacher had any clue the damage she was doing, the message she was sending out about life-long learning or the wrath of the two people who had just busted her system! I don't imagine that was a pleasant parent conference.
I won't forget that story because I am a questioner. I like asking questions. In college, my friends called me 'Who, what, when, why, where' because I asked so many questions and my husband often refers to me as 'Barbara Walters' as I interview new friends. I like to know things! I like to find out how things work! I like learning - what can I say.
I've changed my mind on lots of things since I had my own children, but I always knew that I wanted my kids to feel free to ask questions. I haven't changed my mind about that, but I'm being tested - that's for sure!
I made it through the "why?" stage with all three kids. That phase can get kind of frustrating, but it wasn't too bad. The questions get much, much tougher, though. Much, much tougher. And I'm sure that we are yet to scratch the surface!
My kids DO ask a lot of questions, and I DO try to answer. I realized that the smart little devils had finally called my bluff when they began firing off their inquiries, followed by, "and Mama, don't say 'We'll Google it tomorrow'!" Hmmmffff. Tough. Sometimes I just don't know the answer.
I'm keeping my promise, and I'm trying with all of my might to find the answers to the questions, and I'm finding that way too many of them can't be answered easily. Some of them don't have simple answers, some have many answers, some have different answers for different people - it's tough work out here for us official 'question answerers'!
It is hard, but I say, let's keep asking the tough questions, keep searching for the answers, keep wondering and thinking and considering . . .
I say we should keep working to answer the questions, and I say it from deep in the trenches . . .
A few nights ago, as I was saying good night to my youngest and leaned in to kiss his forehead, Harry said he had two questions. As I said, it's tough in the trenches - here were the questions, joined together in a compound sentence as if they actually went together . . .
Do people who have Asperger's know they have Asperger's and why are there so many ways to spell Hanukkah?
I did what I could with those two toughies and I'll keep on trying in the days ahead. I don't want anyone I know getting a sticker on their forehead. Life is way too interesting for that. That I know.