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edu180atl: sydney bullock 10.3.11

A First Grader asked me today, “How many people do you know?”  I have never been asked this before.  “I don’t know,” I responded.  And I really didn’t know.

“What an interesting thinker!” I reflect.

Then, she asks “How many people do you NOT know?”

I’m stumped.    I love her thinking.  It got me thinking about the questions we ask ourselves.  In our rush to fill our day with meaning, and cross things off our lists, do we ever stop and think outside the box?

She’s the same child who asked how the chef in the Dining Hall made the cupcake icing that was so yummy.  She asks “why there is chicken in my soup?” and “what is on the other side of the Media Center windows?” She wonders and explores.  Viewing the world from her eyes is so much more interesting than viewing it from mine.

We joke about children asking “why” all the time.  But do we ask it enough?

Sydney Bullock is a First Grade teacher at Trinity School who tries to remember to ask “why?”   

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Awesome post. Great thoughts- I know one little buddy around here that always asks Why? Maybe I need to do more of that too. 🙂

    October 3, 2011
  2. I LOVE that question: “What is on the other side of the Media Center windows?”

    Wouldn’t that be an interesting question to explore throughout the year….as what’s on the “other side” certainly changes over the course of the year! Your post reminded me of a story I read with my Sixth Graders called -The Other Side- by Jacqueline Woodson. ( It’s a powerful story of thinking about “the other side of things” and doing something different as a result.

    Your post is a beautiful reminder, Sydney, of the power of our words…if only we could learn to imagine, to question, and to say “Why?” more often … how many more doors (or windows?) would that open? If only we could tinker with (and maybe adopt) the perspective of the other side?

    Thanks for this post…a wonderful reflection!

    October 3, 2011
  3. Sydney:

    As adults, we struggle with “thinking outside the box” activities because we are more reticent to ask the type of questions your student asks.

    In Michael Gelb’s book, Thinking Like Leonardo da Vinci, he outlines the seven qualities that made da Vinci such a creative innovator, artist, and thinker. The first quality is Curiosita. In the chapter, he offers some activities that can help the reader “start thinking” like Leonardo. His first activity is to write down a 100 questions—just write and don’t stop. From that exercise, pick your top ten questions. Then choose one question and explore it. Leonardo (from his journals) would ask a question like, “how does a bird fly?” That led to an exploration and often an invention.

    Maybe your student is a blossoming Leonardo.

    As teachers, we MUST help our students be and remain inquisitive. Incorporate techniques that encourage them to explore, ask questions, and create from the questions they ask. Spoon feeding them content will only make them good conformists, but not creative thinkers.

    I will share an article I recently read on helping students ask questions in this month’s Harvard Education Letter. Take a look and let me know what you think.
    (Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Questions)–really good piece that relates to your post.

    Great post and encourage your students to inquire.

    Bob Ryshke
    Center for Teaching

    October 3, 2011
    • Thank you so much for sharing! I really like how the focus is away from the answers and on the questions, sparking deeper learning. This also gives the students ownership over what they learn. I can’t think of a better way to motivate students!

      The QFT would combat the negative connotation that asking questions can have in the classroom as Anna mentions below. No longer would it be admission of a lack of understanding, or knowledge, it encourages growth, inquiry, and exploration.

      I’d love to explore this more and see what it might look like with First Graders. I’ll get back to you once I’ve mulled it over and tried it out!

      Thank you!

      October 3, 2011
  4. Thanks for the great post Sydney. I love how the youngest learners are so unencumbered by the fear of NOT knowing that seems to grip learners as they grow older. Maybe we, in our adulthood, stop asking “why” so often because it shows a gap in our knowledge and we (incorrectly) fear the message that sends. I relish the energy and openness of your first graders because instead of being choked by the fear of not knowing, they are energized by the unkown. How do we end up killing that joy? How can we sustain it? I wonder, at your school, in what grade to teachers notice that students stop asking “why? why? why?” (or maybe they don’t stop asking). But, I don’t hear that question as often as I’d like to among the 11th graders I teach. Where did their “whys” go?

    October 3, 2011
    • Anna, Thank you for your comment! You might enjoy reading the article that Bob posted above. It may give you some insight into encouraging they “whys” out of your students. I found your blog. Love it!

      October 3, 2011
  5. You make me miss working in an elementary school, Syd! Love your reflection and love this little girl and the way she approaches the world. I hope she never loses it.

    October 3, 2011
  6. Betty Mathis #

    Wouldn’t it be great if we had a “heads up” on those interesting “whys” so that we could do them justice in our answer. When you were little, I remember so many times being “stumped”
    for a response to the logical and thoughtful inquiries coming from you and the boys. We need to ask that question more often even if we feel at risk.
    You’re a great first grade teacher! – you will certainly hear many more of those “whys” and continue to encourage the children to ask questions. I imagine your insight might have you asking a few more questions!?! . . . . although, my experience is that you could be a grown up version of that little girl!!

    October 4, 2011

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