“The earth is geoidal, i.e. earth-shaped.”

These words, dictated to me when I was
fifteen, taught me that teachers
didn’t know all there was to know.

Nor, indeed, did they need to know everything.
“I don’t know, I’ll check,” breaks the infallibility
myth but establishes sympathetic links.

“What do groundhogs eat?”
“Spaghetti,” says the grade two teacher
to my eight year old daughter who has
watched our groundhog devour
New Brunswick violets in our garden,
“with mushroom sauce, of course.”

Another Golden Oldie from Broken Ghosts (Goose Lane, 1986). As a teacher, I have always tried to be honest, admitting a lack of knowledge when it was necessary to do so. Sometimes this meant delaying the answer for a day or two while I researched it.  The automatic and instant access to information via the advanced cell phone and tablet was not ubiquitous when I was teaching, though occasionally we did use the in-class and lap-top computers for immediate online searches. This was, in my opinion,  so much better than the dishonest fudging of knowledge or the careless throwaway answer, sometimes accompanied by ridicule of the questioner, that can blight a young child’s thirst for knowledge and education. Many of us learn by first asking questions and then by striving to find answers to them. The blunt answer that turns the child’s face away from knowledge and shuts down any line of inquiry is a large step down the track of intellectual bullying that leads to knowledge frustration and a future failure to respond, even in the face of later encouragement.

Why? Y is a crooked letter. Why? Wye is a river. But why? Wye is a river flowing between England and Wales. But why? Because. Please tell me why? Oh shut up. Why? Because I’ll hit you if you don’t. Why? Whack. There. I warned you.

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