Asking good questions is a gift.

I am taking an online class for educators because I think that learning helps me to grow. One of the other students has been teaching college for 50 years! And while he’s not a character, he seems to have the most intriguing stories. I’m a sucker for good stories. In answer to one set of questions he wrote about his friend from college with whom he has deep discussions. One of the questions he shared from their conversations was: Who is the third best writer that few people know about?

His post made me think and I wanted to post my response here so that I would remember it.

As an English teacher, I think I ought to have an answer to “who is the third best writer that few people know about,” but I am going to have to think about that one.

For my literature courses, one of the questions I think about is “What texts are often referred to among educated people that the students haven’t read?” That question brought Frankenstein, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Gulliver’s Travels into several of my syllabi. I collect popular culture or news references to literary works and file them so that I can discuss relevance with my students.

The ability to ask thoughtful questions is part of what makes life interesting.

I have found that sometimes my students can be the ones who are asking those questions. My first year teaching developmental writing, I learned more about the whys of grammar than I had ever even thought of before. This last semester I had a group of highly inquisitive and motivated students. They also kept me learning.

I wonder if I could do more to elicit those kinds of questions from my students… Hmm. Maybe in Brit Lit I could ask them what they would have wanted to learn about a section that I didn’t cover. Since it is a required course I am not sure that asking them what they want to know would elicit any useful information. I’ll have to think about that.

I am also wondering if I can get my freshman composition students to pose thoughtful questions about their controversial issues papers. How would I do that?

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