And here we go…it is semester finals time at my school. While the students dread this time of year, fearing that their entire academic career hangs in the balance, I like it. Not because it means the end of the semester and the upcoming Christmas break. Don’t get me wrong, I do look forward to that. I like this time of year for the one question that it brings; the one question that I hope I can give my students the skills to answer:
“So what is the right answer?”
For some of the questions, I am able to give them an approximate location to look to find it – although they will ask for a page and chapter number that I don’t give them. I construct the questions so that if they can find the basic information, they can reason out a correct answer for themselves. I want them to learn how to learn, rather than rely on me. I do remind them that I am a super genius, but I had to work hard to get that way. They, too, are going to have to put in the work to get there.
For the remainder of the questions, I will turn to them and ask the question back. The usual response is, “That is what I am asking you.” It is here that I don’t immediately supply them with an answer. Again, I repeat the question and ask them to tell my why they think that.
“The book says so.”
Now it is my turn again…where does the book say this, how do you know the book is saying that, what in the book that has already happened help lead you to the conclusion, and why? In other words, think your way through it. Dig deep and think.
And not everyone’s answer will be exactly the same, which is the beauty of some of the essays I have them write – what do YOU believe about this and why. This is their time to shine, to have opinions they form and support, to be different from their family and friends, as long as they dig deep and think their way through it.
Not every question in life can be answered by asking a friend, parent, or pastor; taking a poll on Instagram or Facebook; or googling it. There are some questions that have to be answered by assembling all of the information you have at that moment, and coming to a reasonable conclusion from there. It requires thought – your own thoughts – to reason your way through the situation. And it has to be YOUR answer – the one from inside you.
So dig deep.
This is the biggest lesson I hope to teach my students. I know that twenty years from now, no one will hold a gun to their heads and ask them to diagram a sentence. No one’s career will hinge on knowing the name symbolism in Jane Eyre. But they will be asked to look at information, analyze it, draw conclusions, and be able to defend those conclusions to others, and quite frankly, themselves. They need to be able to anticipate the devil’s advocate types and have information in place in counter argue that. They will need the skills to make that happen. They need to think.
So dig deep, people. Dig deep.