Writings of a teachermom, choosing to stay home with her kids, while loathing all domestic responsibilities! In late Aug. 2008, I was diagnosed with Triple Negative breast cancer. After surgery, chemo and radiation, I was given theall clear. However, in the late summer of 2008, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which metasticized to other areas.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I went to a very small, Catholic grade school. My graduating 8th grade class consisted of only 22 students, most of whom had been in class together since 4th grade. We often conspired together on different “projects.” In 7th and 8th grade, our Social Studies teacher was Mr. Prybylla, and his class was BORING. Like most of our classes at this school, our work consisted of reading the chapter, answering the questions after each section and then going over them in class. In order to amuse ourselves, we’d often try to alter this lesson plan. One tactic we took was to ask a LOT of questions, not because we didn’t understand the American History information that we had learned every year since 5th grade, but usually because we hadn’t finished the assignment, so we figured if we could drag out the lesson, we wouldn’t get through all the work and would have an extra day to complete the assignment. Sometimes we’d just see how far off track we could actually get. Or we’d just sit there and say, “I don’t get it,” prompting our teacher to merely repeat the information we were only pretending not to comprehend. Our questions were all about manipulation.

In high school, it was very different. I attended a public school, my freshman class had over 500 students in it, and my questions really were to seek understanding. I took an Honors Biology class, and I soon learned that I just am in no way a Science minded person. This was the first time I ever sought out extra tutoring. I never could see whatever it was I was supposed to examine in those microscopes, and I failed my first test ever. This test has a list of characteristics and I had to state whether each one described RNA, DNA, both or neither. The only thing I knew about RNA and DNA is that they were some spiral thing that you really couldn’t see. Because I didn’t understand Biology, I asked questions….apparently A LOT of questions. (If I was talking about this with my husband, this would be the point in the conversation when he would ask me if this was when I wore those really thick coke bottle glasses, to which I’d have to reply yes). I really did want to understand what my teacher Mr. Joyner was talking about, but I just couldn’t grasp abstract concepts. So I asked a lot of questions, every day.

One time Michael Roane came up to me and in a very rude tone inquired, “Why do you ask so many questions?”
“Because I don’t understand what’s going on.”
“Well, you sound dumb.”

That was all I needed to hear, and my days of public inquiry in Honors Biology were soon over. From that very brief conversation, I learned that asking questions in class made people think I was stupid. So I learned to just be confused, or try to figure it out on my own later, or ask the teacher my question after class.

I pretty much lived with this philosophy throughout most of my schooling….until I started graduate school, which was when I discovered that professors really like when you asked questions. And I am passionate about education, so I really had some concerns to address and practical understanding that I need to accomplish. In order to do this, I had to ask questions.

But I have to admit, as I sit in my educational research class that I am currently taking, I am encountering a lot of new information, and the questions continually run through my mind. Although I still ask questions, I often question my questions before I ask them. Is this question dumb? Does everyone else understand this? Should I just try to figure this out on my own? The teacher didn’t really answer my question, should I ask it again? Maybe I should e-mail her after class.

It’s amazing and ridiculous how a 30 second encounter with a silly boy 19 years ago still affects my confidence and actions today.


At 5:34 AM, Anonymous Mom said...

Life is so funny because some things just never change and I am always learning something new about you.
I had a similar experience in 5th grade. Teacher encouraged questions if you did not understand. I was extremely happy to hear that invitation and finally had the nerve to ask a question. Her comment to me was, "I went over that before, why don't you understand?" CRUSHED!!! So now I have a tendency to try to figure it out and probably waste too much time on figuing it out.........instead of the embarrassment of someone thinking I am also dumb. Just keep on asking those questions and we can't worry about what other people think. Cari, you are definitely not dumb and I admire your persistency in finding out the answers.

At 5:43 AM, Anonymous dana said...

.....And that's where I come in....the social worker has to undo those thoughts in the mind, so the person can gain their confidence back and not let that voice be their guide!! I know where you are coming from...the voice might be there, but you don't have to BELIEVE it!!

At 7:41 AM, Blogger Jaye said...

Amen to both! Others in your class may be having the same thoughts about not asking questions, but you can relieve them of their anxiety by just asking the questions. You are probably asking the same questions that they may have, but just don't have the nerve to ask. Plus, it shows that you WANT to learn and fully comprehend what is being taught (and you can help encourage others by your example). Ask away!!!

Remember that you pay a LOT of money to learn this stuff, and that you EXPECT to get what you pay for!

At 9:32 AM, Anonymous dayna said...

Continuing on those thoughts.. you are an educator. Granted, there are times when you recognize that your students are just being silly. But you can also identify with that one child who truly wants understanding. The bible says in Proverbs 4:7 "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting get understanding."

How do we get understanding? By asking the questions. And if you reflect a little more I believe you will recall a time when someone asked the question that you were thinking.

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Carolyn said...

Whatever happened to that saying, "There are no dumb questions."?

Was it all a lie?

Jaye is right. Other people have the same questions but are afraid to speak up.

So you benefit those fraidy cats when you ask.

At 9:00 PM, Blogger Carolyn said...

I loved the shower story. Heh heh.

At 4:06 PM, Blogger mi said...

Ask away!! I can totally relate to this post. Flashback to CP Chem, 10th grade. Didn't get it. Couldn't get. Finally asked...teacher responded "If you don't know the answer by now, you are either too dumb or too lazy to be in my class." Last question I asked. In college, finally re-took Chem 101 and got an A. I asked A LOT of questions! It occurred to me that a) I am paying to learn and should be my money's worth and b)it's unlikely I am the stupidest person in the room. Therefore, someone else likely has the same question, but isn't asking. (This has actually been confirmed for me a couple times. I suspect I am annoying as a student with my endless questions, but ceased to care about that.

You are an educator who understands the value of getting the most out of a class. You are clearly an intelligent person. It is so hard tolet go of poast insults, but try to get past it. That smart alec is probably at some lame job now because he was too arrogant to ask enough to get a better one.


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