The Value of Not Knowing

As educator’s, there is a struggle between guiding children and telling children when it comes to acts of acquisition of knowledge. There are directions that we share with children in our care everyday---when the work period is over, when it is time to clean our workspace, when it is time to go outside and other scheduling aspects of the day. Seasoned educators know when to interrupt work and when to let it flow a few more minutes before the next transition. One question that arises is How do we know when to engage with children when they are learning something new?

Children are always learning. Our role as an educator is to create environments, guide social skill acquisition and learn alongside children as they seek to answer the questions they have about life. But we must ask ourselves about when we share knowledge and when we support children’s discovery to their own questions. As educators, is it important to know the answers to children’s questions? As adults we live in information at your fingertips society, allowing educators to find quick answers to children’s wonderings and tempting us to share with children all we know. This is our ego asking to lead our practice.

The ego, (a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance) prefers knowing and thrives on existing in a comfortable predictable place. When we are preforming tasks that are familiar we feel a sense of calm and control. As an educator, the space in our mind filled by the ego inhibits our learning potential and the potential of the children we are collaborating with. Moving out of our adult comfort zone and into the children’s world of wonder we can seek answers together and stretch our thinking. The value of not knowing is seeking answers to our questions and realizing that the journey of knowing is an adventure of discovery.

The adventure of discovery is the difference between planning activities for children or children planning their learning and the educator coming along for the ride. When the adventure of discovery is collaborative, we enable children to explore, wonder, experience awe, observe, find answers and build their learning community.

The byproduct of not knowing is the development of our growth mindset and ability to work. Carol Dweck Ph.D. who authored Mindset the book on growth mindset says, “Our most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.” The benefit of not knowing in children is developing the skillset of seeking answers as the educator participates as co-learner and guide.

In seeking answers to their questions, children are developing the skill of mindfulness. In Webster’s, mindfulness is defined as, “the practice of maintaining a non-judgmental state of heightened awareness of ones thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment to moment basis”. I am not saying children who are in early development can employ the precise application of mindfulness, but the practice of not knowing and seeking answers is a beneficial way to improve focus, stillness and self-awareness.

As educators we can be grateful for the opportunities we have to work alongside children as they wonder, seek answers, and make discoveries through the learning journey that always begins with not knowing. The act of not knowing is part of the developmental process and can occur at any stage of the learning journey.