This post is dedicated to Neo, whom we lost exactly one year back. I was in the process of writing a second part to this blog, talking about how a day is filled with fun and learning with Neo. But like a frustrated teacher who wants to leave the job desperately… suddenly he was gone… leaving us in the lurch. We were incapacitated by the vacuum that seemed to want to swallow our hearts. We didn’t know how to go through the day without Neo at the centre of our living and being. We had no clue as to how we would survive the next few days!
It has taken me, along with my family, a full year to wipe away the tears, brush aside the memories of his last few weeks of suffering, and release him from my selfish heart into the abundance of the universe. He is a soul of God and will forever remain our guardian angel. Choosing to cherish the amazing memories we have, seems like the right thing to do to honour his spirit… however hard. Choosing to celebrate his wisdom and gravity is the path we have pledged to take. So, here is my humble effort to mark his first death anniversary with a smile on our faces and the spirit of inquiry in our hearts!
Be curious – be open to discovery
One of the key aspects of conducting an inquiry is to nurture the learner’s curiosity. Moving away from ‘what is this?’ and ‘how does this work?’ kind of questions, to ‘how can I use it in my life?’ and ‘how can it be modified to suit the needs of other groups?’, will help broaden your inquiry and take you down new trails. Sniff out some good ideas and scratch out from the ground the real issues. Focus your inquiry with your nose in the ground and ears up in the air. Let your senses guide you… look, see and hear with a mix of alertness and wonder! Voila… you have set forth on a meaningful inquiry journey!
Be motivated – inquiry is exciting and fun
Inquiry is a maze of discoveries, questions, and new understandings. It is a treat trail that someone with a strong taste for fun and learning can explore with ease and confidence. If the excitement is missing from inquiry, then so is the fun. Whether you are a teacher, a learner or just a canine bloke looking out for some tasty food or the comfortable corner of the sofa, the inquiry must add not just to your intellectual quotient but also to your emotional well-being and your personal kitty of life skills.
Be selective – choose the right questions
Sometimes you may go off track… so it is important to ask the right questions. Make your questions open-ended and exploratory, make them based on the higher-order thinking skills, or use the thinker keys or gears, or a question matrix. Once you have the right questions, it is like knowing the right action to a command, and you can do the trick! However, with Neo sometimes he just wasn’t interested. Do you have a learner like that in your classroom too?
Be diligent – literally, leave no stone unturned
If you didn’t get your questions right all the way, then focus on the skills. Try a new trick to entice your learner to ask meaningful questions and support their wonderings. If they can do something, let them demonstrate that. Whatever you do, keep your students engaged. If you don’t, your learner will either feel soporific or be up to some mischief!
Be celebratory – celebrate your achievements with a wag, lick and a woof
It is important to celebrate the discoveries and successes on the way! ‘Oh, good boy!’ was a phrase that worked like magic with Neo. Acknowledgment and praise work equally well with inquirers in your classroom. Indicating to them through a word of acknowledgment or appreciation letting them know if they are on track, guides them in their journey forward. Recognizing their efforts, skills, attitudes, and action becomes the trail of treats that will keep them sniffing forward for the ultimate treasure chest to be found at the end of this inquiry journey. Allow the learning and the efforts to be celebrated and see how it strengthens their thinking and research skills in a cognitive fashion.
Be perseverant – look for the next bone
And finally, once you have reached the culmination of one inquiry journey, don’t you want them to keep asking for more? Well, that is the trick to keep the next bone ready. How can the findings from this inquiry lead to the next? A careful arrangement of the units of inquiry, in sequence, can keep the game going, from level to level, inquiry to inquiry, learning to learning. Help students make cross-connections between the learning from previous units. Allow students to conduct personal inquiries too, if the scope and time of your unit did not allow a child to explore, in-depth, their passions and interests. By being patient and perseverant the flame of learning will keep burning!