The Questions our Students Want Answered

Principals Pen Wednesday, 24 Mar 2021

It’s standard practice for our teachers to begin a unit of work by establishing students’ existing knowledge and understanding. This enables teachers to pitch learning experiences at what we call the Zone of Proximal Development: in other words, the sweet spot that sits between what students can already do, and what is a step too far beyond their reach.

This is not standard practice for facilitating class devotions. Yet Mr Josh Snape, in his impassioned desire to meet students where they’re at and nurture their spiritual growth, invited Year 5 students to put forward their biggest unanswered questions. The students’ questions would be used to construct a series of class devotions to engage students in topics that matter to them.

Josh was overcome by the profound questions he received from these 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds, which included:

  • What is my purpose?
  • Why do we have to die?
  • What do you do in Heaven?
  • Why did God create us?
  • Why was I made instead of others?
  • Why did God pick me to be who I am?
  • Why do people pray all the time just because they want good luck and not to talk to God?
  • Why don’t people take risks?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people? And why do good things happen to bad people?
  • Why would God put us in this world if God knew that the world would end up like it is today?
  • Why does God forgive again and again and again?
  • What is God’s middle name and last name?
  • How did God exist even before there was air?
  • When did dogs come to this earth? (I’m not trying to be silly)
  • Why did God make mosquitoes?
  • How does the world stay up, with all the mines?
  • Why do we have devotions?
Despite a quarter-century of educational experience and my belief that children are more capable than adults realise, I can at times be guilty of underestimating how deeply children think. Some of the Year 5 students’ questions resonate with me, too.

School holidays are just around the corner and, with holidays, comes a break from school routines for every student. School holidays a precious opportunity for children to:

  • engage in priceless non-time;
  • rediscover the underestimated value of boredom;
  • generate purposefulness and meaning through idle time;
  • let the mind search for its own stimulation;
  • immerse themselves in prolonged diffuse thinking through nonsensical activity;
  • spend time with different people; and
  • explore opportunities that school routines tend to obstruct.

My prayer for each student over the coming term break is that they will step back from the pressure of modern-day schooling knowing that, in doing so, their capacity to ponder and process big picture questions will be further expanded, and their minds and bodies will be refuelled and refreshed for the second half of the semester.

- Jane Mueller, Principal