Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Learning to Ask the Right Questions

Not mine, but a very interesting story from a fellow blogger, A Voice from the Middle, about why we go to school. The title of his Blog is:

Sunday, May 04, 2008

learning how to ask the right questions...

Since it is National Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought I would write about a teacher that had the greatest impact on me and actually formed my understanding of what it means to be a teacher.

Back in 1989 Dr. John Loveland was the head of the Management Department at New Mexico State University where I got my bachelors degree (remember that I started out in the business world) and taught one of my senior level courses. Well on the first day of this class he stood before all of us and simply asked:
"What is the purpose of going to school?"
Naturally being all highly educated students, everybody shot up their hands with answers like: "to learn information", "to master a field of study for a future career", "so we can make gobs of money" (there is one of those in every crowd), etc, etc, etc. Dr. Loveland said nothing and simply called on us one by one until everybody who wanted to get a chance at trying to impress our new professor got a chance.

Then when the last answer was given a silence fell on the class and he just stood there slowly shaking his head and said matter of factly:

Everybody always thinks that they go to school to learn information and that is just not true because chances are good that you will forget most of everything you learn in your classes. Besides, we live in an information age and there is no lack of "information". When you get out in the real world and want to know something, all you have to do is look it up.

The reason you go to school is to learn how to ask the right questions."
Of course this answer took all of us by surprise and we just sat their looking at each other with the same puzzled look on our faces as if somebody near us just passed gas (yes, just like the face that you are making right now because you could not resist giving it a try). He continued:
"You go to school to learn how to think for yourselves and how to be problem solvers. When you graduate and start your career you are going to be confronted with different kinds of problems on a daily basis. With any luck your education will have taught you how to analyze the situation and to ask the right questions that will solve those problems. If you do not know enough base knowledge or how to think, you will never know what information you need in order to reach your desired outcome."
Well without a doubt, that little 10-minute lesson instilled in me a new appreciation for education. Ironically, I am now an educator myself and at the beginning of every year I too ask the same question of my students. Now at 8th grade not all of my students are the deepest of thinkers but I have to say that when I give this little talk, the vast majority of them get it.

I love asking my former students, "do you remember what I told you was the purpose of going to school?" and without exception, even years later, they always come right out and say:
"To learn how to ask the right questions!"
So on this National Teacher Appreciation Week, I want to tip my hat and thank Dr. John Loveland, a management professor who really gave meaning to me being a teacher.

Thank you Dr. Loveland...I will never forget you. Not only did you impact my life, but now your wisdom will live on for generations to come through my students.

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