Waypoints of the path of wisdom

Questions are waypoints on the path of wisdom.  Each question leads to one or more new questions or answers.  Sometimes answers are dead ends; they don’t lead anywhere.  Questions are never dead ends.  Every question has the inherent potential to lead to a new level of discovery, understanding, or creation, levels that can range from the trivial to the sublime. (Lichtman, 35 pag.)

Are we willing to risk trying new things – letting go of some of our traditional methods – to model new learning? What if we offer our learners more opportunities to chart their own path from where they are to the target? Is the path they take as important as the learning they acquire?  How can we create investigations that prompt students to make observations and ask their own questions?

  • Do you ever worry about student-directed learning? Does it mean that the teacher is not engaged?  How are we supposed to teach if we don’t tell them stuff?  What if we asked our learners to show what they know before we teach and reteach? Are we assuming that they know nothing because they are, well, young?
  • It is possible to lead learners to an understanding of commas by asking them questions? Could we offer young learners the opportunity to develop an understanding of the rules for themselves through the use of examples and visual metaphors? Could learners decode how to correctly place commas to separate the elements in a series and in compound sentences without being told the rule first?
  • How often do we underestimate young learners?  What if we engage as learning partners with our young learners? What if we ask questions that have many answers? What if we ask questions without knowing the answers?
  • How often do we risk trying something new and out of our planned comfort? How often do we risk collaborating with others to observe and learn from each other? Is it so easy to do what I’m good at that I am unwilling to risk?

Why would learners take risks if I won’t?

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Jill Gough serves as Director of Teaching and Learning at Trinity School.  She risks, questions and seeks feedback to improve. You can follow her on Twitter at @jgough.

[Cross posted on Flourish.]


Lichtman, Grant, and Sunzi. The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School. New York: IUniverse, 2008. Print.


  1. Hi Jill,
    I appreciate your post so very much because I live by those words. I am constructing my reply on your posts from April 2nd and 3rd, thanks to Bo Adams who tweeted them out. As I mentioned before, I so very much agree with both ideas that you pose. I have been teaching for 18 years in 3 different countries (the entire K-12) while raising four kids of my own (3-13). Needless to say, I have been knee-deep in child development via the schooling experience and have, as a result, gathered a broad range of data and expertise on the matter. I currently teach 200+ students (ages 6-10) who keep refreshing my data, thus, I felt compelled to share what I believe is necessary for your vision and Shelley Paul’s to come together. I may be wrong, but I haven’t found Innovation talk that addresses any of these issues.
    What I have learned through observing and listening to the children is that we have only developed learning through one level of existence (we exist on four: mental, spiritual, physical and emotional). Hence, children are easily bored(number one complaint across all ages in all case studies I’ve performed!) because, luckily, they are able to exist outside of their minds. Boredom is usually the inability to experience the moment fully, as a result of a repressed emotion. Schools are not places of emotional healing by any means. Emotional literacy is not addressed. More likely, the expression of emotion is viewed as a weakness or an offense. Schools work hard to repress and control the reaction of children (I cannot help but think of Adam Lanza as an elementary school boy: what was he like? did anyone reach out to him?). In order for children to be prepared for the unknown, they must have a balanced existence. “The School of Life” will make sure we address imbalances without fail. Helping children understand the power and purpose of their emotions and how to express them in appropriate and safe ways opens the door for reflection and wisdom that has not yet permeated the school system. This brings me to the next step necessary for deep change: grouping children by developmental ability instead of age. This requires drastic change and risk, but the benefits…outweigh by far the initial investments. Reading, writing, math…the difference of developmental grouping is fascinating. Finally, time. We all know children have a much healthier relationship with time than we as adults do. They do not “metabolize time” inherently. They take their time (especially at the younger ages) and are are not conditioned to rush, until they get to school. Why do we strive to quickly make them think “they don’t have enough of it” or make them believe that it is fragmented and learning can only take place according to anxious interpretations of what should be (aka scheduling). We all know that when we enjoy learning all of our levels of existence are in someway engaged, moreover, time is suspended. We live fully in the present, not a distant past, nor an unknown future, but a tangible present where we consciously choose our thoughts and our responses.
    These are the structures, I believe are essential for the children to evolve safely and efficiently into their roles of change on earth, and am currently working towards changing(through the Spanish Language). I have found that, more than anything, it is an amazing journey of self-discovery and co-creation. The initial idea I started out with has changed and evolved tremendously. I no longer hold on to the idea of “when will this happen” but rather wonder where and how this next step will get me closer to my goal. As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step”.
    Thanks for prompting my thinking. 🙂


    • Lisa, You have greatly influenced my thinking! I strive to model what we want for our student-learners. I am falling short of the beautiful “School of Life” balanced existence of which you write. I know you will know that I am motivated and encouraged by this opportunity to work on “failing up.”

      We all know that when we enjoy learning all of our levels of existence are in someway engaged, moreover, time is suspended. We live fully in the present, not a distant past, nor an unknown future, but a tangible present where we consciously choose our thoughts and our responses.

      I am challenged and excited to continue designing learning opportunities that seem to suspend time. Thank you for prompting my thinking too.


      • By what I know, see, hear and sense; you are not falling short in the least bit. You have traversed a rich, deep and meaningful path that serves as a shining beacon of light for many. Your philosophy of questioning is a sturdy, reliable and beautiful lighthouse guiding the ships of kindred. You are an incredibly reflective and effective educator.

        The beauty of life is that there is always something to learn, something to know; but the even better part is being open, aware and patient enough to know that everything happens in the perfect time/space sequence and that the lessons are all around us; hidden, coded; waiting for us to discover them.
        All your questions seem to point in this direction.

        And while I love questions, I do think at some point a decision has to be made. An affirmation is necessary where there is no question, no doubt, that we are committed to assuming the risk of “the fool”; who jumps, decidedly, impulsively into the unknown with a huge smile and gazing towards the sky.

        I believe the rewards outweigh by far the risks of being called a “fool”. I suspect you know all of this too. 🙂


  2. I love these questions about questions. They are having an interesting effect on me: I am wondering, imagining, pondering and considering. Perhaps that’s your point, dear Jill.


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