TBT Recollections of a High School Counselor: "There's No Such Thing as a Dumb Question"

edcan-v51-n1-neal-300x161“The only dumb question is the one you don’t have the courage to ask.”  No truer words were ever spoken. You should never be afraid to ask questions.  If you don’t understand, need more information or clarification, ask questions! This applies to everyone young and old, rich or poor, in school or out of school, everyone! Asking questions is what smart, successful people do. Asking questions is the source of all knowledge. Questions are the ultimate solution.

I remember when I was a kid, during the summer my dad would give me several chores to do before I could go out with my friends. Most of the time they were pretty self-explanatory like mow the lawn or pull weeds and I’d do my work no questions asked, then take-off with my friends. Sometimes they’d come by and I’d still be working, they’d always, jump in and lend a hand so we could get on our way. My sister used to say I was like Tom Sawyer, getting my friends to do my work for me. Now that I think about it  I guess maybe I was.

Then there were times when my chores were more detailed and there were steps that needed to be followed to get the job done properly. Occasionally I wouldn’t understand a particular step but would I ask my dad for clarification? No way! Why? because I didn’t want to look stupid, or for him to think I hadn’t been listening. He was a tough truck drivin’ man and didn’t have a lot of patience, no sense on getting him pissed off first thing in the morning. So I’d just keep my mouth shut, nod my head, and pretend to understand.

Later while doing the job I’d forget a particular step and wind up doing it wrong. Then when he’d get home from work and find that the job wasn’t done right, there was hell to pay! Yeah, I always seemed to be paying!  My own damn fault. Just a few simple questions and I could have avoided the yelling, restriction or the belt. But embarrassment, or fear of ridicule, kept me from doing the smart thing: admit ignorance and ask questions.  Even in school I seldom asked questions or even answered them for that matter. I can’t tell you how many times I would sort of slink down in my seat and try to hide behind the person in front of me in hopes that the teacher wouldn’t call on me.  If I raised my hand at all it was usually to ask to go to the restroom. Answer a question? No way! There’s no way I was going to look dumb in front of my friends, the teacher or especially the girls.  God forbid!

In the twenty seven years I spent in Education I saw so many students who reminded me of myself at their age. As a teacher I always encouraged my students to ask questions. Even at the college level there were those students looking dazed and confused, needing clarification, but not willing to risk possible humiliation. Better to take the low grade and settle for less than to embarrass themselves in front of their peers.

How well our lives turn out is determined by the depth of our thinking and reasoning. How well we think is a result of what we learn and the quality of our questions. Without questions, we don’t stand a chance of recognizing what is relevant to our lives. To be successful in life we need to get over our fear of asking questions. What we learn from asking the right questions will assist us in our life quest for happiness and contentment. The answers to our questions will help us form lasting friendships, choosing life-partners, and find work that will fulfill us. To find the answers we seek we must all be willing to ask the questions… no matter what the cost. Yes, that includes stopping to ask for directions…

Just Saying..

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