"We are closer to G-d when we are asking the questions, than when we think we have the answers" Heschel

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

FNQ – Thought for the week - Never Knock a question

I have been a student for some time now. In fact, I have been a student in a formal setting as far back as I can remember. To be a student, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of Jewish accomplishment. Rav Soloveitchik often said that the expression Talmid Chacham does not mean Torah scholar. Rather, it means that you are a student (talmid) striving to become a scholar (chacham).

For me, the most exciting and gratifying experience in learning is coming up with a good question. Nothing energizes and invigorates my learning more than seeking out answers to a novel question that I came up with. There are times when I am able to find satisfactory answers; and there are also times when my questions remain unanswered. But whether or not I succeed in finding answers, my knowledge has grown and my learning has been enhanced due to the fact that I posed a question. (This is a link to an interesting piece on the power of questions).

When a student asks a question it shows the highest level of interest. They ask because they care and are curious to learn. When a student finds the courage to ask, their question must be met with respect. It is imperative that a student who, by asking a question, has overcome the innate embarrassment of showing others that he is ignorant, not to mention that he cares enough to seek out knowledge, is given proper attention. The most important thing for a teacher to do is to validate their student's questions. A teacher doesn't need to always have an answer but must always display respect for the question.

My experience has been that while it is nice when a teacher tells me that I gave a good answer, the enjoyment of being told that I asked a good question is unmatched. I am unaware of a recipe for success in education but I do know this: If you tell a student he gave a poor answer that student will likely not raise his hand again. However, if you tell a student he asked a bad question, than it is likely that that student will never show up again. What do you think?

Binyamin – Always looking for a good question

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