15 October 2017

Asking a stupid question is a very smart thing to do!!!

It took a lot of work to get a degree in my forties. As much as I enjoyed learning, it was a bit of an uphill battle most days. Dang, it was tough getting there - dropping my daughter off at the sitter before taking the bus 90 minutes one way. But beyond that, it was tough doing the double duty that my brain endured because....frankly, I had no idea what the professor was saying half the time.

It was hard enough to learn new topics like Statistics and Sociology but to top it all off, there were new words used daily that made no sense to me. One day, I remember feeling extremely frustrated as I tried to keep up with the topic that day and the teacher uses a sentence with the word "extrapolate" in it.

That naughty little voice inside me screamed "WTF. Extrapolate this you SOB." But of course I didn't say that. What I did ask was "Can you please tell me what extrapolate means?" She - the professor - looked at me with a look that said....well, it doesn't matter what I thought it said. She looked over the top of her glasses as she scanned the room. I knew she didn't like me interrupting her. She went on to tell us what it meant. When we left class that day - a few other students came over and told me that they were glad that I had asked that question. They were also struggling with some of the jargon.

My first year in university I purchased 3 dictionaries. No kidding - my sister and I used to share new words and they were coming at me fast and furious. I think I needed to take a separate course called "Unnecessary Words We Will Use So That We Look Smart".
"Why say marmalade when you can say jam?"
I still love plain language - oh, don't get me wrong - I can speak complicated language but I prefer to include people when I can. The words we use sometimes exclude people. Using too much jargon without explaining what it means is unnecessary. I also continue to be smart when it comes to asking questions that may make me look stupid. After all - asking those questions have opened doors for me. Some of the smartest people I have ever encountered have never spent one day in a university classroom. They don't use big words when we speak - but we get what they're trying to say.

Be the person who asks too many questions. As an educator, I take ownership of the lessons delivered. If the student doesn't get it, I like to deliver it in a new way. If I'm paying you to teach me something, I need to get what you're trying to say. I'm going to interrupt so that I can get it and follow the lesson.

They say there's no such thing as a stupid question - maybe/maybe not but I prefer to say that the only stupid question is the one you didn't ask.

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