Re: Kids on Teamwork LO2967

Barry Mallis (
28 Sep 1995 08:44:31 -0400

Reply to: RE>>Kids on Teamwork LO2961

Marilyn, I like you posting very, very much. Not only does it tickle my
intellectual and spiritual fancy, but it reminds me of my teaching days
when I used with my students the kinds of questions you typed.

I'd prime them for writing with the use of analogies which would honor
their personal experience. By posing questions which have no incorrect
answer, I attempted to draw the students out of what we might agree are
typical ways of thinking. Examples...

Which are you more sure of, gravity or tomorrow? Why?
Which is more Powerful? A weed? A stone Wall? Why?
What color is happiness? Why?
Which weighs more? A boulder? A Heavy heart? Why?
Which is more frog-like? An owl? A rat? Why?

The answers are all extraordinary, in the best sense of that word. No
matter whether the student was gifted or not, the answers were all
revealing the assumptions which form our territories. Students were eager
to hear the responses of their classmates.

Once I asked my students, high school seniors who had just completed a
background book on Russian culture, to describe in an in-class essay the
key element they had gleaned from their reading. I posed the question
this way:

You are in a large department store that has everything imaginable (A
Bradlee's, Macy's, in the northeast, for instance). Based upon your
reading about Russia, to what object that you find in the store would you
compare Russia as you understand it from your reading? Why did you choose
the item for comparison?

On the one hand I get the student who says that Russian is like a huge
cast iron frying pan into which you can throw everything imaginable and
slow cook them; that's because of the size, diversity and seeming
agelessness of the Slavic culture, etc. etc.

And on the other hand, a quiet student writes: Russia is like a box of
strike-anywhere matches, because at the same time that these matches can
illuminate, they can also serve destruction. Now that's pure paradox, a
"deep" point most of us find harder to talk or type about. As a teacher I
had explicit proof that these students understood a key point of the
reading, and were able to express those points in personal terms.

The very word "organization" requires special thinking on our part. When
we organize, we usually have to give up some aspect of personal freedom in
the broadest sense possible. This is a paradoxical situation, becuase
here we are, all of us, typing away madly about how to open ourselves up
to greater deeds of thought and action to serve humankind in its
endeavors. But our coming together physically imposes...something.

So, Marilyn, these kinds of questions are one tiny tool to use to break
out of the straight and narrow and confining so as to challenge our
beliefs. Although I have not as yet used these types of questions with
adults in my work, I challenge you to do so in some way and share the
results with us!

Best regards,

Barry Mallis