This:

http://xkcd.com/1053/

A few weeks ago, I was in a diner having breakfast, and this kid came over to me.  I’m not good at judging kids by size to determine what grade they’re in, but let’s say she was in third grade. I’d never seen her before.  She said, “Are you [student]’s history teacher?”

In some surprise,  I said yes, and looked around.  [Student’s mom] was sitting about two tables back from me, with a family, and she waved at me, and I realized that this girl was the daughter of the people she was sitting with.

She asked me a question about ancient Greece, which I answered as best I could. I’d like to think it was a pretty darned good answer, but it’s the way of things that you don’t always find out the end of the story, or if the knowledge stuck.  The kid asked some great follow-up questions, I responded in kind, and eventually she decided she’d picked my brain enough and went back to breakfast with her folks and my student’s mom.

Sometimes I think that’s how education really should be.  A lot of short conversations in the ordinary course of your day. A lot of short question-and-answer sessions about the world, and why things are the way they are.  Not tests, not quizzes, not orders to produce on schedule.  Just, “Hey, can you answer my question? You can? OK, how about some follow-up on that?  Yes? Great. Thanks for filling me in.”

As XKCD today says, it’s so much more fun telling people for the first time about something, than it is to berate them for not knowing it in the first place.  On my better days, I’ve made a career out of telling people some things they’ve never heard about before, often for the first time.  And it’s a wonder.

One comment

  1. I often don’t share XKCD comics because I’m sure that *everyone* has read them by the time I get to my RSS reader. I sent this one out this morning, because it is SO perfect. Being the person who introduces hyper-curious young people to the amazing bits of the world is intoxicating. It’s also a bit dangerous, since it’s easy become dependent on that reflected fascination and start to hoard it.

    In middle school, hoarding it is especially toxic. These are kids who want ownership over every thing they like. Teaching young people to share and be generous in their excitement is just as important, and just as challenging, as getting them excited in the first place.

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