How Do We Not Crowd Out the Space for Wonder? (2/365)

photo of the Orion Nebula by Bryan GoffAs is so often the case, a post from Maria Popova over at Brain Pickings gave me pause today. Popova writes about John O’Donahue’s Walking in the Pastures of Wonder – in Conversation with John Quinn and offers some beautiful reflection and several excerpts. This one, though, struck me most deeply:

Each one of us is the custodian of an inner world that we carry around with us. Now, other people can glimpse it from [its outer expressions]. But no one but you knows what your inner world is actually like, and no one can force you to reveal it until you actually tell them about it. That’s the whole mystery of writing and language and expression — that when you do say it, what others hear and what you intend and know are often totally different kinds of things.

It is, perhaps more socio-emotional than you’d prefer. Stop, though, and think about the possible implications – particularly for education.

When I get the opportunity to observe a classroom, I am constantly on the lookout for evidence of curiosity. If I leave a room and can only comment on the knowledge of the teacher and what questions he might have about algebra, biology, or literature, then I know we’ve missed an opportunity.

For all the talk of personalized learning and data mining, we often miss the greatest source of data-turned-information-turned-knowledge-turned-wisdom to which we have access – the inner worlds of our students (if I might borrow from Quinn).

In the classrooms where I find the most evidence of learning, I have the fortune to see teachers not only asking students to share their curiosities, ideas, and beliefs, but helping their classmates to develop these habits as well.

One particular observation sticks with me. In a third grade classroom, students and teacher assembled on the carpet at the front of the room, the teacher has posed a questions for discussion. The students have talked with their partners about what they think of a given topic, and one little girl has raised her hand, been called on, and is now “um-ing” and “well-ing” her way through her answer. She gets a bit off track – the consternation clear on her face.

In too many of the classrooms I see, the teacher would have stepped in, kept the child from struggling, and either asked someone else or said what he hoped the child was trying to say.

This teacher did something else.

“Do you need time or help?” she asked.

The child paused, “Time.”

And she was given time to sort out her thinking. And her peers were kind and attentive.

Not only were the children in that classroom being immersed in the idea that a teacher might actually be interested in their thoughts and making room for them to be tinkered with, they were coming to an understanding that getting to our answers might take more time than we’d sometimes expect.

It has me thinking about where I can create space in my daily conversations to give more room to others to bring forth the ideas they might otherwise think too nascent for sharing.

What about you? What might you do to make space for those with whom you learn to share?

Things I Know 334 of 365: Earth might have a partner for twin day during the next spirit week

If your first instinct it to tell me all the reasons this isn’t exciting or give the statistics regarding little chance there is of anything coming of this, I’ll see you at 335 of 365.

For the rest of you, I’ve been consuming information about Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f.

This is what I learned about when I watched Star Trek as a kid. It’s what excited my imagination when watching the short-lived Earth 2, and it’s what makes looking at the stars on a clear night while I’m home in Illinois so exciting.

Though the first two earth-sized planets to be orbiting a sun like ours existed long before the discovery was published in Nature, there’s something different now. Though the likelihood of life as we know it existing on the planets is almost inconceivable, there’s a reduced sense of aloneness attached to knowing they’re there.

This is the value of STEM in schools, the ability to incite wonder in the world and beyond.

We noticed a dimming of the sun using a satellite Galileo would have swooned over and then measured wobble of the star caused by the gravity of the planets.

And we haven’t even seen them.

We think they’re there.

The evidence says it’s likely they’re there and they’re planets..

It’s as close as scientists get to faith.

It’s beautiful.

Though we haven’t seen them, exactly, humanity cannot help but try to imagine what these distant neighbors look like.

I’m going to go get some butcher block paper and my crayons.

Things I Know 115 of 365: Fireworks are magic

Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.

– Tom Robbins

I sat in COSI working on on completing an assignment today when I heard a loud explosion. It’s really becoming something of a pattern with me. Last night, I ran a 4-mile race that started with the firing of a cannon. No countdown, mind you, just the firing of a cannon without warning.

I’ll admit it. I jumped. Then, I ran.

Tonight, I kept my seat. I was working under two deadlines. 1) COSI was closing. 2) The assignment was due.

Still, the explosions continued. I looked up for some indication of their source. Finally, I saw a reflection in the upper windows of a building across the street.


Somewhere, to the east, near the Delaware River, fireworks were being launched. It continued for 15 minutes or so. Several times, I found myself craning my neck to get a better view of the display in whoever’s bedroom or living room window I was using as a mirror.

I wanted to go outside.

The 5 year old in me was begging 30-year-old me to pack up the laptop and go watch the show.

Thirty-year-old me held firm.

“You’re no fun now that you’re old.”

“I know.”

“It’s fire…in the sky.”

“I know.”

“I hate you.”

“I know.”

In reality, 30-year-old me wanted to go outside just as much as his younger iteration. All wound up in coursework and a need for sleep, he exercised his judgement and stayed put.

When the noise subsided, I looked around at my fellow patrons. I wondered if I was alone in my battle between my selves. Surely, one of the four middle-aged couples on the double date across from me wanted to politely excuse themselves from their table to step outside to oooo and aaaaaah as we were taught to pray to the gods of magic and fire when were younger.

Instead, they all sat and talked about Rebecca Black and drank coffee as we’ve been taught to pray to the gods of small talk and caffeine now that we’re older.

I thought about it in my seat for a second and could not explain to myself how fireworks work. The same thing happens once in a while with smell. I know there’s an explanation. When it doesn’t come right away, I chalk it up to magic.

As I pondered fireworks, my brain started to put together the physics of the whole thing.

I felt 5-year-old me eyeing me with contempt, and immediately shut down my reasoning.

“You’re right,” I said, “It must be magic. And next time, I promise we’ll go outside to watch.”