When my son was in primary school, he came home one day, and I noticed he was little quieter than usual.
It was always a routine in our house that our children would do their homework at the kitchen bench while I prepared dinner. This enabled me to help when needed but also to have those important serendipitous conversations.
As he was doing his homework, I asked him if he was okay and said, “You seem a little quiet, is there anything you want to talk about?”
He told me that the teacher said he asked too many questions, he said that;
“If you were being fired on by the Russians, you would want to know what calibre bullets.”
This generated a boiling cauldron of emotions within me.
The first being, joy. My son is asking lots of questions? Fabulous! The second emotion was pride, that’s my boy, keep it up! And the third emotion was anger. How dare the teacher shame him for his curiosity!
Over the years, people have tried to suppress my curiosity. I have been told that I am too enthusiastic, too outspoken, that I ask too many questions and that I don’t respect authority.
In high school I had a teacher say in front of the class “Well Sharon, you seem to know so much about this topic why don’t you take the class?” And then he walked out. In university, when I respectfully questioned the tutor, he said I was wrong and not to ask any more questions. I later went to his office carrying eight textbooks (yes boys and girls this was before Google.) Showing my evidence and again questioning his statements. His reply was “Well, I couldn’t be seen to be wrong in front of the class.”
My curiosity has served me well. It has opened doors, built relationships, uncovered new thoughts and opportunities and it makes the dull exciting.
I asked My son how he felt about what the teacher said. I then asked him: “How do people learn things? What excites you about a topic? How do you express that excitement? Is curiosity to be encouraged?”
I wrote a blog several years ago explaining why people fear questions. Questions trigger in us the fight or flight response as we feel challenged or threatened. The reality is that questions are a gift. In sales questions are ‘buying signals’ where the customer wants to know more and is ready to go to the to the next step. Questions show that the recipient is engaged, interested, and feels comfortable and confident enough to engage and dig a little deeper.
Every level of understanding starts with a question, a hypothesis. “How does this work?” “What do I need to do?” “Why is this so?”
Albert Einstein said “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” He went on to say “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
The best teachers I have met encourage, stoke, and fan the flames of curiosity. They welcome questions and diverse opinions. Yes, there is a risk that you’ll get off task, but this is where creativity lies, where we uncover new problems, and new solutions.
Thankfully, my son did not take the teachers comments on board. and I was delighted when he went to a new school that what the teachers appreciated most about him was that he was happy to ask questions.
My challenge for you today is
- Raise your hand and ask that question
- Take time to empower others to ask questions
- Build an environment that encourages questions and critical thought
What about you?
What do you think?
I welcome your questions