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Sunday, April 6, 2014

No Time For The Unanswerable Questions.

Lessons Learned


Why did my mom have to die? Why do I have cystic fibrosis? Why is my brother in a wheel chair? Why does my family always yell? Why do we have to move again? Why do they always pick on me? Why is my dad never home? Why is school so hard? So easy? So boring? Why should I care? Why? Tell me why. These and infinite others like them are the unanswerable questions that fill the hearts and minds of students on a daily basis. Sometimes students are able to gather their swirling, troubling thoughts and articulate the unanswerable questions, but usually they cannot or perhaps will not which leaves the young burdened heart and mind simply full of hurt. A mind and heart so full has little room for new learning material, because preoccupation with managing those things that hurt is indeed consuming.  Life is hard. Lives are very complicated. At the same time teachers are consumed with the ever-looming, pressure-driven questions such as: How will these students pass these tests? How can we possibly improve our scores? What happens if we don’t? How can I individualize instruction, cover all standards, show continuous improvement in scores, encourage each student to strive towards higher order thinking and questioning,  follow each IEP plan, aspire towards teaching and learning through multiple intelligences, and still allow time for discovery, curiosity, creativity, and collaboration? How is what is being asked of me even humanly possible? Inwardly all of us, teachers and students alike, are slowly, desperately drowning in this sea of unanswerable questions, because we are silently and overwhelmingly weighed down and stressed. Despite this, we all learn to maintain our “press onward” veneer and go through the motions of daily accomplishment. It’s a pressure-cooker. A time-bomb.  An extremely tragic elephant in the living room.  Metrics are being generated and collected and assessed and pronounced upon, yet no meaning has been made with respect to student learning. We have accepted this  unfortunate but very measureable learning fa├žade while completely neglecting truth, connection, depth, substance, authenticity, relational support, honesty, and a realness through which genuine, life-changing, meaningful and exciting  learning can occur, hearts can be tended to, and compassion can reach in  to share the hurt, even if answers cannot be found.  What we have created in an effort to best serve our students is a number monster that feasts on the time needed to reach, teach, and inspire our students.  How can we not recognize this? What will it take to correct our error which continues to ripple out in ever widening circles of despair?