The First Chapter - Lower School
Welcome to The First Chapter by Silvia Davis, Head of Lower School, a blog featuring wonderful stories about our youngest students.
Mrs. Davis will be posting here regularly. Please be sure to scroll down to read more and check back frequently for updates.
The Importance of Inquiry
At times, we find that it is helpful to see things not only through mirrors but as well through windows. Another voice, or in this case other voices, can bring light to the nuances of a topic that one may have never considered themselves. With that, I turn this month’s blog over to the fifth grade teachers, Liz Schultz and Tim Head, and their students.
In his 1995 book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Carl Sagan wrote the following:
"There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question."
When teaching elementary school students, and many times when teaching in upper grades, teachers are confronted with questions that may seem frivolous or purposefully simple. However, as educators, it is important to remember the above. “Every question is a cry to understand the world” is a phrase that resonates with us deeply. It reminds us that every question has a purpose, even if that purpose is just to reach out to see if someone is there, listening and caring.
For educators, an area of great focus is on turning questions into inquiry. Inquiry is so much more than a question. It’s the right question, at the right time, for a specific purpose.
Tanvir Virdi ‘27 said, “I learn not only the answers, but I learn how to ask questions and who questions are appropriate for and how.” Through questioning, students learn to identify what it is that they need, and then ask for that information – a skill more important than any other, and one adults use so frequently that they often take it for granted.
Inquiry and questioning require another vital ingredient – curiosity. Alyssa Ji ‘27 insists that, “if you don’t ask a question, curiosity will literally swell up inside you!!” Aava Joshi ‘27 adds that, “when you don’t ask questions, you are left wondering.”
At Wardlaw+Hartridge, we are so privileged to work with students who give in to their natural curiosity and enjoy exploration. Encouraging this curiosity by inspiring and guiding student inquiry is one of the most important and most rewarding aspects of teaching, and thankfully, it is one that comes up every minute, every hour, every day.
Questions have a power that sometimes goes unnoticed. When asked how she felt about questions, Sophie DiLaurentiis ‘27 said, “It depends on who is asking it and how it is being asked.” Her response reminds us that there is an art and a tact to inquiry, and presenting your inquiry in the proper manner can influence the response. Emily O’Neill ‘27 spoke about the importance of “using a polite voice, saying please and thank you, and always being gentle,” when asking a question. Anika Vasani ‘27 reminded her classmates that, “It’s important to remember that it’s not realistic to expect everyone to answer every question.”
Clearly, our students not only learn when to ask questions and what questions to ask, but also how to make inquiries with others in mind. We must remember to respond in kind – thoughtfully, with care for the content of our answers as well as the tone. Wardlaw+Hartridge Lower School teachers are well-versed in this, incorporating Responsive Classroom teacher language skills into their interactions with children on a daily basis. It is dangerously easy to squash curiosity and inquiry with unkindness or indifference, and sadly, many find as they get older that where they once might have raised their hand, they now choose to stay silent.
So, thank you for supporting our students in their continuing quest for knowledge, and thank you for taking the time to be curious about something today. After all, as Kimberly Zhang ‘27 said, “Adults will never stop being students!”
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