The Preschooler’s Question That Floored Me
The four-year-old boy was leaving my classroom when he asked me something I’d never been asked. That’s saying a lot, considering how many questions I field every day.
Teaching music classes to preschoolers, I feel like I double as a search engine. Kids are naturally curious and want to know about the world around them. Since kids generally live in the now, they want to know about things that will affect them, and about what they see right in front of them. These are typical questions lobbed my way:
“What are we doing today?”
“Can we use the disco light?”
“Why do you have a Band-Aid on your finger?”
In my classroom, I often feel like I’m at a press conference in a sea of Associated Press journalists. Everything from the sound of the air conditioner to my clothing choices is fair game for questioning. Among the 4- and 5-year-olds, a common inquiry concerns the living status of whichever composer we’re hearing.
“Is he dead?”
On one particularly busy day, I was trying to squeeze activities into a lesson plan that was already bulging.
“Why are you running?” a boy asked. His perceptive question made me realize how ridiculous I must have looked, chasing around the room trying to outrun time.
Such observations are like a mirror. Kids can unintentionally call out adults, making us aware of behaviors that have become familiar, and therefore invisible, to us.
Through their questions, we can also learn about how kids see the world through their own frames of reference.
The unique question this four-year-old asked me that day concerned a no-smoking sign that hangs on the wall near the door of my classroom. It’s a picture of a cigarette with a red circle around it and a line through it.
It seems strange to have this sign in a preschool. The kids I teach aren’t lighting up, nor are the teachers. I think it’s there because community groups rent my room on evenings and weekends.
When I was in elementary school — ironically, in the same building where I now teach — a nicotine-ridden cloud billowed from the teacher’s…