Four More Questions

1. Why is this student different from all other students?
2. How does one tolerate her incessant queries?
3. How could I diffuse her classmates' frustration?
4. What can I, personally, gain out of this experience? [Credit to Rochi and Rivki]

Shoshi* is in Seder-mode all year long. She doesn't miss a thing and questions every detail of my lecture until it is absolutely clear to her. Most teachers and classmates are bothered by her endless queries. Not me. She charmed me on day one with the most gorgeous smile ever, so I am completely won over. Besides, I admire her sincerity (and focus!).

Pirkei Avot teaches that the shy student will not learn (לא הבישן למד). I've seen it time and again. Students are too often afraid to raise their hands. I wonder about it...

  • Perhaps they are lacking poker chips that day and are afraid of sounding dumb. I've tried to assure students that asking is harmless, to no avail. 
  • Teachers may be known for giving pat answers, or simply missing the main point of the question. The student feels like the teacher wasn't paying attention, leaving her to wonder why she bothered asking. (It's true, the teacher is too busy thinking of how to respond!)
  • Perhaps the student witnessed or experienced an intense reaction to a questioning student and decided to lay low. Surely that is why the Mishna concludes with ולא הקפדן מלמד, "a short-tempered person cannot teach [effectively]." (Technically the Mishna's קפדן could be translated as a nit-picking, strict or easily provoked person)

There's a new phenomena going in our household and I am just over the moon with it. About two weeks ago Daniel started asking "why?" The first time he did it I was stunned and super excited to realize that we'd hit a new stage. Since then, every directive is followed with a long conversation breaking the idea down to the smallest particles. The results are similar to after a session with Shoshi. I end up wondering about the real, ultimate why.

And that is why I love to teach and mother. There is a real purpose to life. There is a reason why.

Why do you think people are afraid to ask questions?

*Name changed to protect student's identity


  1. I simply can't be bothered. If it wasn't clear to me the first time, I'll just let the idea glide right off of me and move on to the next point.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! I've discovered that I'm not usually a question-asker in a class setting, and after mulling it over for a while, I've come to the conclusion that I need time to, well, mull things over. I like to process the information, think about it, reflect on it, etc. It takes me a little while, so usually I just sit in class (well, back when I went to class, that is) and absorb the info, and think about it later.


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