By Walter Boomsma,
Just recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with two young ladies. When I say “young” that means one was a sixth grader, the other a fourth grader. Even though this was not school-related, I tend to believe we who are adults should always be “teaching” children, if only through good role modeling. So I stay alert for opportunities.
They were having a conversation in the back seat that began with an announcement that an adult friend of theirs was pregnant. For reasons I certainly do not understand, the younger asked no one in particular, “When the Mom is pregnant, can the Dad drink wine?”
I tried to look smaller and hoped that I would not be drawn into the conversation. Yes, I am a teacher. I also certainly qualify as an SME (Subject Matter Expert) on this topic in a relative sense when compared to most kids. And I was reasonably sure a simple “yes” answer was not going to be the end of the conversation.
Worry wasn’t necessary, the sixth grader accepted the challenge, explaining that while the Mom shouldn’t drink, it would be okay for the Dad to do so. The fourth grader accepted this, explaining that she understood the Mom shouldn’t drink since the baby was in her stomach.
The sixth grader gently corrected this, noting that she’d learned in health class that “the baby is actually in the nest mothers have in their bodies.”
I drove on, both relieved and feeling a bit smarter having learned a new vocabulary term associated with reproduction. I now have a better explanation of the process and successfully escaped from dealing with the topic.
That sixth grader was, in the truest sense, the “ideal adviser” because she was “one or two steps above the learner.” This is an important concept we learn in teaching and communication. Sometimes the best teacher and communicator is not the most knowledgeable. It’s easy to overwhelm the learner with too much information. The learner loses interest and gains very little knowledge.
The conversation between the girls continued briefly as they explored the topic at a level that met their youthful needs. In fairy tale terms, we all “lived happily ever after.”
Sometimes knowing the answer just isn’t that important–or necessary! There are times when we need to bite our tongues and sit on our hands so it’s truly about learning and not just about teaching.
A lesson for Grangers might be simply this: perhaps the best person to explain Grange Membership (or procedure or ritual) to a new member is your newer member. They will, hopefully, be your most enthusiastic and—more importantly—will understand exactly how much that newest person needs and wants to understand.
When we get asked a question, instead of thinking about how much we know, we would be better served to consider what our questioner needs to know. There’s an old story about a kid who comes home from school and asks his father, “Where did I come from?” After a lengthy and somewhat uncomfortable conversation about the fundamental facts of life, the father asks what triggered the conversation. The now fully educated child replies, “We have a new kid at school who said that he’s from Chicago, so I wondered where I am from…”
So where do Grangers come from?
“Let’s make some news, take some photos of it, and share it!”