It’s one hour before dismissal and Ms. R, the 5th grade science teacher, is fantasizing about a nice warm bath. All she wants right now is for her students to listen without interrupting. She needs to finish this segment so that she will be in sync with the principal’s schedule.
Back in homes and offices throughout the city parents are cognizant of the fact that in one hour their children will be on their way home. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they walked in and did what they were told without arguing? Yes, it would be nice once in a while, but to teach or raise children means that we must engage their minds. Engaged minds are not silent; they are dynamic. The word most often used by children with engaged minds that seems to bother most adults who work with them is – WHY?
There are many meanings and intentions to this small word. Here’s what I can come up with:
- In school, it’s a good way to divert the flow of the class, to make some mischief, to watch the teacher grow exasperated. This gains you points with the popular kids.
- When said properly, it is a way to show defiance, another way of saying, “Oh, really? Who says so?”
- Finally, there is the sincere search for understanding. This “Why?” comes in many sub-categories. There is the “Why” which means:
- I don’t see the connection; please explain.
- I don’t get the reasoning; please show how you come to that conclusion.
- I don’t see the payoff; please show it to me.
- It seems that I don’t understand the nature of
what it is that we are talking about; teach me.
In all the instances in category #3, there is the sincere desire to learn something. Such a “Why”? (we’ll call it “Why”? #3) should be seen as a blessing and the children who ask it are to be answered calmly and with respect. No matter how late in the day it is. Just because they are not convinced about something you said, does not make them disrespectful. It makes them good researchers. These are the leaders of tomorrow, the justices, the heads of corporations, the inventors.
I actually know a few (just a few) parents and educators who rejoice at hearing “Why”?#3. They understand the significance of such a query and the importance of handling it with care. It means that the child is interested, that s/he wants to know more rather than get away with doing less. What’s not to rejoice?