Embracing the Mess of Inquiry

Success will never be a linear process. If it is, was it really a success?

Success will never be a linear process.
If it is, was it really a success?

While TOCing at Heath Traditional, Dr. Janet Lauman (Principal), referring to Learning in Depth, said something that struck me, “When trying new things, it will get messy. The key is to be okay with the mess and to keep going.” 

In our own personal lives, when they get messy it’s usually a point of transformation, of renewal, rejuvenation and new found purpose and determination. This is the way I see LiD unfolding in this school. Here is this school, in a mess, grappling with questions of how to unravel the tangles of inquiry, how to stoke those fires of curiosity in those young budding minds and the countless questions that arise even just from those questions. This mess has brought many teachers, including myself, into moments of struggle, of unsuredness, of knowing what you want but not knowing how to get there. But there has also been those “a-hah” moments that have been so beautiful in my own learning, there has been collaboration amongst teachers, reaching out to others and as a school community trying to pick out the treasures amongst the mess to create a LiD program that is unique to their school, their students, and their staff. A true “Heath” LiD program.

With LiD, this mess is necessary. It requires you to deconstruct how you’ve normally been teaching, how you’ve traditionally been taught, and turn it all on its head. The questions are bountiful and unrelentless as every LiD Kids session leaves you with more things to ponder and reflect upon. Or.. what has been happening most often, has the same questions coming back to you over and over again. “How can i get these kids to really dig deep!” or “Is this really inquiry when it’s six months later and they’re still just typing in their topic to google?!”

I’m my happiest when I have something that makes my brain spin and I’m trying to figure something out that isn’t at all easy to figure out. I feel most productive when I have a lot of questions that I’m trying to answer. I’m happy here in this state of confusion and cleaning up “the mess.”

In reading more and more about inquiry and how it evolves differently from school to school and even seeing it as a TOC bouncing around the Delta school district – there is something inherently messy about inquiry. But this is what makes it so wonderful. It means that it’s like nothing we’ve ever done before. Asking our students to learn how THEY want to learn and to ask the questions that are in THEIR head and not in the assigned text book reading. It has us learning more about what it means to be a teacher, to be a student, to inquire, to inspire, to motivate, to encourage, to coach, and to let go.

When things are a mess and don’t go according to plan, tradition, or routine – we know that things are changing, and something special & completely different is going to come about. This is why working in a district that has inquiry at the top of the list is so exciting. Having all of us, in this mess together; embracing every minute of.

I grew up watching The Magic School bus and idolizing Ms. Frizzle. Now I know it’s not just because she had a magic bus and they all went on cool field trips – it’s because she had it right all along: Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”


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