Tag Archives: weekends

Asking Good Questions

It’s hard to beat an afternoon at home, on the couch watching the Superbowl. I guess I should clarify “watching” football for me is synonymous with multi-tasking. I really do really like football, but I what I like even more is that I can simultaneously “watch” a game while also painting my nails, grading papers, updating quicken, folding laundry and shoveling steamed edamame into my mouth! I know it’s a skill- don’t be jealous. I think I’ve learned this fine art of football-watching-multi-tasking from my mother, who is the queen of getting things done during football games. She has given me both an appreciation and understanding of the game of football, as well as a high aptitude for being productive while watching the game. Thank you, mom.


For as much as I enjoy a relaxing and productive Sunday at home (and no, those two words are not mutually exclusive in my book) I actually look forward to Monday.

One of the reasons I love my job is that I honestly look forward to going to work on most days (not just Mondays). Each morning I am greeted (and when I say greeted I mean just stared at blankly) by twenty, sleepy-eyed teenagers. And these groggy, sometimes socially awkward, inquisitive students are the reason I love my job.

The Reciprocal Relationship

This is my fourth year of teaching and every year my students impart some new knowledge on me. I think one of the keys to being a good teacher is admitting that you always have something to learn from your students. Sometimes teachers get mixed-up and assume that the teaching-learning relationship flows in some linear fashion; going from teacher to student and then just stops. But I am a firm believer that the teaching-learning relationship is much more reciprocal.

Some of my students teach me about being resilient— many of them have encountered deep pain, loss and neglect in ways I can’t even imagine. Others teach me about creativity— their unfiltered, creative words* send me scurrying back to urbandictionary.com to make sure what they’re saying is still relatively appropriate for the classroom. And this semester my students have been teaching me about curiosity— their hands raised with genuine and thoughtful questions shaped by their own sense of wonder.

Asking Good Questions

I start off each new semester with a lesson about the importance of asking good questions. I tell my seniors that for the past 12 years of their lives they have learned how to give the right answers, but I want them to know how to ask good questions.

To discuss different types of questions I use the metaphor of a tree. When you look at a tree “on the surface” you see the obvious…the trunk, branches, leaves, etc. These represent the simplistic, one word, literal questions. The “When did the war start?” and “Who is the author of the book?” kinda questions. Important questions, but simple nonetheless. The answer is often obvious, right there in front of you.

Then there are the “under the surface” questions. Back to the tree metaphor– I ask, what can’t you see under the surface of the tree, but you know is there? The roots, dirt, soil, etc. These are the things that are harder to see and understand, but there is a richness and necessity to their presence. These are the more complex questions, the “why?” and “how come” and “do you think” questions of the world.

For one of their homework assignments I gave my students a rather simple task of asking 15 questions.

Here are some of questions they asked:
“Would the world be more peaceful if all of us had the same religion?”
“Why do people take advantage of other people?
“Why does the government spend more money on prisons than schools?
“How long can the average person hold their breath?”
“Why do teens these days not seem to care about their education and future?
“Why is school so hard for some people?”
“How come we can’t stop wars and all get along?

I have given this assignment before, but usually, I get the same, pretty standard questions. Questions such as “Why do teachers give homework?” or “How many days ’till school gets out?” or “Do you like teaching?” But this group of students is different. They asked complex, curious, and creative questions; questions that I don’t always feel prepared to answer or even discuss.

It’s Not About the Answer

I am learning that inviting someone to ask a question is like asking them to share a small piece of who they are. We are a culture that likes to spout off facts and megabytes of information in easily digestible chunks, but we don’t often pause to ask questions. Asking questions implies that you must be humble and vulnerable enough to admit that you don’t know the answer. And sometimes I think I shy away from asking questions out of fear that the answers won’t make sense. If someone gave me the assignment to write down 15 questions, I am honestly not sure what I would ask. What would you ask?

I believe questions are like a mirror that reflect the scattered doubts and musing of our hearts. They don’t realize it, but when I invite my students to ask questions, I am actually getting a glimpse into the kind of things that swirl around inside. And hopefully this inside glimpse allows me to be a better teacher and a better learner.

(*note: thanks to the help of my students I’ve added a wealth of words to my vocabulary. Words like kick back, chillin, lets book it, nah, not eeeven, aww, that’s a mission, don’t tripppp and..oh, I could go on. Sometimes these words even slip into my every day speech…which lends itself nicely to the occasional raised eyebrow from my peers, as if to say “Do you realize what you just said?”)

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the love sac

Part of my trip to LA last weekend included an afternoon with my brother. And I think any trip to see my brother definitely warrants its’ own post.

My “little” six-foot-two brother, Andrew, is pretty great. And yes, I am biased. I mean for growing up as the youngest of three older sisters- three very talkative, loud and opinionated sisters-I think he turned out pretty good. And I have just come to trust that all the times we dressed him up, made him play school, and do choreographed routines in the living room are either repressed painful memories or he was simply too young to even remember. All that to say, I am quite thankful that he still lets me be a part of his life.

Andrew, more commonly referred to as BoBo, by our family, is a senior at Biola. (really, BoBo is an endearing term, despite whatever negative connotations you have attached to the word) He’s living in a cute, suburban neighborhood near La Mirada and last weekend he and his six other roommates opened up their frat-house style home for a BBQ with friends and family.

Now he and his friends are great guys…very upstanding, responsible citizens, but this is not a normal house. Take for instance the living room: there are 3 BIG (I mean huge, 62 inch) TVs all lined up next to each other, complete with 5 couches, and 2 coffee tables! I guess that’s a pretty good ratio 3:5:2. So you can sit on any of the 5 couches and face all 3 TVs at the same time, making it possible to watch the current football game, the espn post game show AND simultaneously play video games without having to flip back and forth between channels. My dad explained this is every boy’s dream.

And it continues- each bedroom has another TV and the “study room” as they call it, hosts all seven of their computers. Everything is about function, not form. There are no decorations. zero, zlich. no pictures, no frames, no cute magnets on the fridge, nothing. They do however have a color coated, rotating chore chart taped to the fridge (my mom would be proud). Oh, and what twenty-year-old male household is complete without the love sac. I will probably never quite understand why post-adolescent men gravitate toward this large, furry, over sized bean bag, but they do.

And my brother and his friends love it. The eat on it. Sleep on it. Read on it and wrestle on it. (see below)

But more important than seeing my brother’s new house with a gazillion TVs and a giant love sac, it was seeing him. My brother is only 21, but he has a wisdom and depth that I respect so much. He knows how to love people and love them well. He can fix and tinker with almost anything and he has more natural computer geniusness (yes, I made up that word) then I’ll ever have. He tries to give me dating advice, and I should probably listen, considering he has had the longest dating relationship in the family : ) And whenever he travels or visits another country he brings back thoughtful little gifts for my sisters and I- beautiful mugs or scented candles or handmade scarves and earnings. aww, so sweet, right?

The truth is I wish I got to see more of my brother. We’re not the best at talking on the phone. Conversations usually consist of no more than 7 sentences and maybe some text messages during the week. I am learning sometimes it’s just good to be together. in person. face-to-face. It’s just better that way.

BoBo, you’re wonderful!

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Sometimes weekends come and go and I feel like there is either way too much to do or not enough going on- it’s feels like this ridiculous game of tug-o-war where there is never a happy medium. But, this weekend was an exception.

I needed a break. Something new. Some space to go and be away and see people I miss. So, I threw my bag in my trunk and Ingrid Michalson’s new CD in my stereo and headed down the 101. Now if you know me, you know that I hate, absolutely hate, traffic. It’s like my arch enemy. You think growing up in southern California I would just “get used to.” But no. Sitting in traffic is like sinking in quicksand…just when you think you’re moving faster and getting out. You brake. stop. brake again and sink further into the murk and mess of LA traffic. I think most people just succumb to it and put on music or sit there and make the best of it, but not me. No, I try to beat it. Or at least do everything in power to avoid it and get out quick.

However, when I am so unfortunate to be stuck in traffic I call my dad. My dad is like my personal google map. You see my cell phone is ancient, probably comparable to the infamous Saved by the Bell cell phone that Zack carried around in the halls of Bayside High. Ok, not that big, but close. I do not yet have a modern, fancy touch screen machine that signals when to turn left and announces what to eat for dinner…but I do have my dad. No matter where I am, on any freeway, anywhere in the greater LA or Orange County area, my dad can tell me in an instant where to go. He must have a grid of all the freeways spinning around in his head. Usually the conversation goes something like this:
M: ugh, dad there is traffic again!
D: ok, hun. where are you?
M: sitting on the 405.
D: well you could get off at the 10 or the 22. Or take the 101 to the 605 and then get on the 710.

Seriously, somehow my dad just knows all of this- like where the 91 meets the 241 and where the 57 ends and the 5 begins and when it’s better to take the 210 or the 126. I mean who needs an iphone, when you have all that within a phone call to dad.

Thanks to the google-like-efficient advice of my father, I avoided the 405 and cruised down Highway 1 en route to Seal Beach to see my good friend. She and I have never been roommates, actually we’ve never even lived in the same city, but we connected (rather randomly) 5 years at a conference. We bonded because we both didn’t fit. She was searching for something new. And I was aching for something that was lost. And somehow instead of finding what we were looking for, we found each other.

Five years later, we’re still friends. And it was one of those weekends where it was just so good to be together. We just laughed. Laughed a lot. We barbecued with her friends. Told silly stories. Walked down Main Street with no real purpose or destination, just the wonderful aimless wandering that takes you right where you should be. We played fishbowl. And ate watermelon. And did yoga in the family room. Went to church. And sat on the beach and talked about life and teaching and dating and God and insecurities and love and loneliness and the importance of good friends.

Sometimes I feel like I breathe a litter easier when I’m somewhere new. It’s refreshing. I inhale deeply. It’s not that air is any better in Seal Beach than it is in Santa Barbara, but it is different. And sometimes when life feels stagnant and dull, new air is needed.

Dee-anna, thank you for a refreshing weekend. It was a breath of fresh air. Love you.

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