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There's No Such Thing as a Dumb Question!

Sigh, here we go again. Another black man killed at the hands of the police. People are rightfully upset, tired, and overwhelmed. Everywhere I look on social media I am reminded of the white supremacy that reigns supreme in our world.

This afternoon I watched Kendrick Sampson’s IGTV and my heart broke. Then I went to the next story and it was a video of Oscar Jimenez being handcuffed on live television while reporting for CNN. I lost it. After the video ended I went to find a follow up article because nowhere in the video did the police state why they arrested him and his crew.

I read it and I was immediately angered. First, the police chief apologized and said it never should’ve happened. (My thoughts, “Well then why did it happen?” Apologies don’t fix things! Change your actions! In the video you could tell no one had a clue what was happening. Watch it!) Anyway, the second thing that angered me was that Oscar Jimenez felt the need to clarify that the police officers were very kind to him while arresting him. But when he asked what guidelines they should follow moving forward so they are not arrested, an officer said “Look, I don’t know man, I’m just following orders.”

This breaks my heart! Racism is perpetuated by people who just follow orders! Systemic oppression is perpetuated when we accept things because we have been told “That’s just the way it is!” Society has taught us to not question a thing!

This brings me back to my childhood. I remember when I was younger my mom used to always say “There’s no dumb question! If you want to know something, you ask!” My friends used to say “I would’ve gotten slapped if I asked my mom that question!” or “I am never allowed to talk that much to my mom!” To be honest, I started to be a little more quiet when they came around because I didn’t want to explain yet again that my parents allow my brother and I to ask questions! It sounds so silly typing it out.

But here we are in 2020 and I have grown more confident in who I am and I have also realized the agency my parents gave me by just allowing me to wonder. I am so thankful for that intentional change they implemented in their household, because I know they didn’t have the same opportunity as children.

Becoming an elementary teacher has solidified my beliefs around this idea. We cannot afford to raise children who are not allowed to question in our presence. The curiosity of children is literally stifled when we don’t allow them to ask question. We are teaching them implicitly to just accept things as they are. We must allow children to ask away. There is no dumb question.

Now I realize that there are situations where the time is not appropriate to answer a question. This is where relationship comes into play. I was not a disrespectful child. I know that for sure. And if I was about to ask a question when the time wasn’t right, my mom would give me a look and I would know to ZIP IT! I felt comfortable doing so because I knew that she would get back to me later. Or maybe I just waited all together because she taught me that now was not the right time. Any way it goes, my mom and dad built up trust and bonding between us to where I respected them but I also had freedom to wonder about the world around me.

We do not want children following things blindly. Well, we don’t want adults following blindly either. As an adult, practice asking questions when they arise for you. You may have push back from the people around you, but know that moving forward well informed is better than be clueless and having that terrible feeling in your gut because you didn’t honor your own curiosity. When you are comfortable with asking question yourself, you will be more open to receiving questions as well, especially for little ones. We have to practice what we preach.

Below are some tricks I use in my classroom with my own scholars.

When a child asks you a question:

1. Answer it

2. If you don’t know the answer say “Well actually I’m not sure, let’s go find out.”

3. Tell them to write it on a sticky note and put it on the Wonder Board. Teach the procedure for kids to look it up themselves during down time in the class.

4. Send everyone else back to their seats to get to work and conference with the one scholar individually. If it is beneficial for the entire class, share it out.

5. Have the scholar write you a note and leave it in your mailbox. Answer it within 24 hours.

6. Say “I can’t answer that question at this moment but I will get back to you!”

7. Teach scholars that there are appropriate times for things. During a lesson we are only discussing something on topic. If you have a question about something else “Write it down so you don’t forget, but ask later.” (Bathroom break, lunch time, dismissal, etc.)

If you have a technique you use in the classroom or beyond involving asking and answering questions, please share it below!

Love y'all!

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