I’m Exhaling Answers

Nancy Dwyer

I’m not one for answers. Giving them, anyway. I dig the search for answers, and I’m happy to help you on your way to whatever answers you’ve deemed worthy of your time. I’m not the person to whom you should turn if you’re expecting answers to questions that aren’t in my unique locus of control.

But I sure do inhale the loose ends, the un-networked nodes, the ideas in the ether that aren’t tremendously useful to me in the moment, but represent the potential of usefulness down the road.

I breath these ideas in and let them fire the respiratory flow of possibilities.

Then, in front of a classroom – in a conference presentation, on an email chain, or a chance meeting – I exhale these loose ends in hopes of creating a more complete atmosphere of answers to your questions. It turns out I’ve been carrying these loose ends to help you tie and tidy up your questions.

I’m the fellow who’s spent hours reading research reports, opening tab after tab on his browser window, shaking every hand at the party and cataloging them all in my head for that one question you ask when I’m on a panel. Often, far too often, the other folks will dodge your question. They’ll give you philosophical answers that start with, “That’s a good question,” with the subtext of, “And I’m going to answer a completely different one right now.”

That’s when I’m ready to exhale and say, “I don’t know if this will be helpful, but here are four specific places you should look to help you down your path.” I can’t promise they’ll get you everywhere you want to be, but they will get you closer than you are now.” It’s also my way of acknowledging I don’t know the answer, but I can hopefully connect you with someone who does.

In the classroom or working with a group of educators in professional development, my exhale may seem foul. Not because of me, but because of what’s come before. People are often conditioned for the yes or the no. They’re expecting the, “That’s wrong, and here’s what’s right.”

That’s not how I breath. My telling you doesn’t teach you. It might give you something new to tell others, but I’m dubious of someone who answers any question with, “Because Zac told me.” You’re ideas need something stronger than hearsay as their foundation.

This post is part of a daily conversation between Ben Wilkoff and me. Each day Ben and I post a question to each other and then respond to one another. You can follow the questions and respond via Twitter at #LifeWideLearning

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