Cultivating Beautiful Questions

Growing up and living with my family of origin, there was an unspoken rule within the household: asking questions is not okay.  This rule was in place because to ask questions was deemed rude and it showed that the individual asking the questions was seeking to challenge the authority figures in the home.  While no one explicitly said that I wasn’t allowed to ask questions (well sometimes they did) I knew that doing so was always uncalled for.  I knew because of the reactions that I received every time I would ask a question.  Little did I know that not asking questions kept me from learning about what I did not know or understand about the world around me.   The power of nonverbal disapproval discouraged me from asking questions and I did not know or realize at the time that this was something I would have to undo.  In order for me to reverse that discouragement of not asking questions, I had to ask myself a question: “why don’t people want me to ask questions?”

Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question defines a beautiful question as “an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something— and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.”  This is what I want for my teaching, I want what occurs in the classroom to be driven by beautiful questions that will motivate my students to change as innovative thinkers, writers, speaker, and readers.  However, with my teaching style currently I see many obstacles in the way.

As a teacher and  “type A” teacher at that, I often times want things to be perfect, not wanting to run the risk of the unexpected taking place in my classroom. I do understand that when the unexpected takes place, authentic learning is bred.  Without cultivating an untypical learning environment, I believe that I run the risk of stifling the learning of my students.  The classroom should be the place where students are given the opportunity to pose their questions, try to solve them, and ask more questions if they are not getting the answers they wanted.  This will make room for more innovative thinkers and make for more interesting papers for me to read (ha)!

There are things that my students don’t know, and my job is to help them to realize what they don’t know, they don’t know.  With that, they can unlock answers  about the world that surrounds them using the world literature that we read to drive that thinking. This literature is too rich to not give my students the opportunity to dig deeper into the unknown.

I aspire to work towards a learning environment that creates “question[s] [that] challenge authority and disrupt established structures, processes, and systems”, which in turn will [force us all] to have to at least think about doing something differently” (139).

There are too many great opportunities that can come out of asking beautiful questions.  So, why don’t I start with this first question: how can I cultivate beautiful questions in my classroom?