Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why don’t students' question more often - Andy’s Story

In Educational institutions you are considered a good student if you are very bright on the academic side and not very rebellious. But some students ask questions. Questions seem like a form of rebellion. Many of them are very valid questions. They are considered rebels. How dare a student question the textbook? How dare a student question authority?

Can’t authority be wrong sometimes? Can’t authority be questioned sometimes? As a student I was part of both the groups. I would not question, because I was worried it may have been wrong. But then I questioned my reasoning behind not asking more questions. Soon I was a menace in class.

The Death of Curiosity and Andy

Andy was in the seventh grade at a local middle school in his town. He was a curious young boy, who liked to understand how the world worked. His parents were very happy to answer all his questions as a little child. So he was always filled with plenty of questions for the people around him like,

“Mom, why is there light coming out of the T.V?”

“Mom, how do birds fly in the sky?”

In kindergarten, Andy kept this up. He would often ask his teacher about alphabets, numbers and other things he learnt there.

Andy enjoyed asking questions because students do not laugh at you if you have a funny question in play school.

But things started changing as he got into junior school. There was now more too study and the teachers did not have as much time to answer all the questions Andy had.

Andy thought he would ask her the question after class, but he rarely got a chance to do so. In class his teacher would rush through all the portions at school and then ask Andy and his classmates, ‘Have you understood everything? Do you have any questions to ask me?’

Now Andy looks around and is waiting for somebody else to ask the first question. Andy had lots of questions. The teacher would not encourage too much questioning during class time as it would disturb the rhythm of the class and may result in the day’s portion not being complete.

Nobody wants to ask a question. Why?

When Andy looks around and notices that nobody has a question, he starts doubting his question and thinks it is not valid.

Andy assumed that if nobody had a question, everyone had understood everything. He was the only one that had a question, so he was not listening properly. He starts thinking that if he asks a question at that point of time and it was not valid everybody would laugh at him.

So he decides to keep the question to himself and discuss it with his friends after class. But not many students want to stay back and discuss classwork after class.

When Andy grows up!

As he progresses to the next grade, he has lots of unanswered questions. The student did not ask any questions at the start of his education. So his basic understanding of many of the subjects at school is not very clear.

The problem arises when he gets to the sixth and seventh grades, where a thorough understanding of the basics is vital. The teachers in the these grades assume that every student knows the basics well. They would not have gotten to this grade with understanding the basic and most simple concepts well. But these concepts do seem simple when you are older and have worked on more complex issues for years. But it is not easy, if you are a student who is learning it for the first time and not thought it well.

But Andy’s school is wrong again. Andy is not the only student in his class that has tons of unanswered questions. Many of his classmates have the same unanswered questions as well. Nobody is ready to accept this in front of the classmates and teachers, as they would be considered stupid if they did so.

The students keep the questions to themselves during middle school as well. High school starts and Andy finds it very hard to keep his grades up now. One day he does not understand a concept being explained in class. He noticed the teacher was in a hurry, to finish the portion and did not explain that part well.

The End of the Class

At the end of the class, the teacher asks the students if they have understood everything. Andy stands up and truthfully tells the teacher he did not understand a specific part of the day’s lesson and he would be grateful if the teacher could explain that part of the day’s lesson to him again.

Now the teacher could have told Andy to meet her after class and he would sit down and discuss that part with him. But it had been a long day for the teacher and the question frustrated him.

So he decided to remove all his frustrations on Andy. He reprimanded Andy in front of the whole class, telling him he was a bad student and was always talking and not listening in class. The students see Andy singled out, and realize that no harm will come to them. So some of them laugh. The teacher then brings up an old and completely unrelated incident that Andy was unfortunately involved in at school. He had gotten into some trouble for it. The professor then passes a comment on his character. The student is not allowed to say anything, because he is a student only and authority must always be right. He knows he was not wrong to put forward that question, but he is not able to defend himself.

Never ask a question

This incident traumatized Andy for the weeks to come. He decided never to ask a question again as he was afraid of a rebuking. The funny part was that many of the other students in class did not understand that specific part of the day’s lesson. The teacher did not explain it well enough. But nobody was ready to question the professor’s authority. You did not want to get on the professor’s bad side.

The professor had moved from making a comment on his behavior to making a comment on his character. And the professor had done this in front of Andy’s classmates.

Let us learn together
Tweet @AbhishekShetty_

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