Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903
in Letters to a Young Poet
This year my grade level colleagues and I are embarking on a journey into the land of inquiry with our students. For too long I have pretended to "ask questions", pretended to allow students to find answers, pretended to be a facilitator of thought when all I have been is an enabler, enabling passive learning.
I plead guilty. I have asked questions that require a simple answer, clean and clear cut. I have answered more questions than I wish to number, and I don't know why. I have allowed children to sit, content with what they know, not challenging them to delve into the unknown. That stops NOW!
After reading Learning for Real this summer, my colleagues and I decided it was time to make a change. Inspired by the stories and the lessons from the Center for Inquiry, we decided to begin our own inquiry. We began asking questions. We imagined classrooms where questions were common-place and children grappled with possible answers. We envisioned children posing questions and exploring their world for possible solutions and answers. We saw children engaged in their own learning, becoming passionate learners. Then we asked questions; How would we begin? What subject area might work best to start? How would we model curiosity and questioning? Where would this lead us? Are we comfortable enough to live with unanswered questions and uncertainty?
The school year is barely three weeks old, but we have begun our journey. Children are looking closely at artifacts of all kinds and making observations. From there they ask questions, ask questions, and ask questions. A buzz of discussion begins as children notice, make statements, and begin to wonder. Children unlock possible answers, reflect on their thinking, and realize they have more questions.
Where will this lead us? How will the inquiry process of generating questions, researching (in the broadest sense), and reflecting on answers enhance student motivation to learn and deepen the learning process? The journey has just begun...