When I was a teenager I volunteered at the Oregon Zoo and one of the biggest things that our supervisors stressed in training and during our time there was that it’s ok to say “I don’t know.” They had numerous horrifying stories of previous teens leading the public astray that were funny as long as you weren’t involved. During my second summer though I remember as a shift was ending a couple teens being pulled aside and being questioned about the tidepool, from what little I over heard it seemed they had convinced people that the creatures in that exhibit ate ridiculous things like donuts and security had to prevent people from contaminating it by sharing an elephant ear. I felt bad for my fellow volunteers and was surprised both that they felt comfortable sharing such a crazy tale and possibly even more concern that people believed it. I mean our trainers told us we have the zoo logo and name tags, so people expect us to know, but really do people think fried pastries are indigenous to the sea?
As a shy person, I might have over used my training in my hours at the zoo. I never felt it was out of place to say “I don’t know” or “let me check with my supervisor” even if I was fairly sure I knew that answer. I didn’t want to be responsible for spreading misinformation about the zoo or the animals. Lately though, I feel like this answer is less acceptable, I mean so much information is at our fingertips, always on our phones or computers, shouldn’t we be absorbing knowledge like sponges? But it seems because of the ease of access, we actually retain information less that ever, why remember it, as long as I have my phone at my side, I can look it up again.
A few times John has asked me questions, particularly about dinosaurs that I just didn’t know. He gave me the funny look when I told him such, because you know moms are supposed to be all knowing beings. So I said lets look it up. I got out his tablet and would ask the ever knowing Google and read him the information that was found. Beyond that though later I would talk to him to see if he had learnt it. Interestingly when we look up things together and talk about it he usually can explain back the information. However since he knows how to use the microphone button to look things up on his own, if I ask him about things I hear him researching on his own, he usually still doesn’t know or at least can’t relay it back to me. In this day of technology it is reassuring to see the need for human contact and connection. I think it is important for us to be reminded that technology is just a tool and that real learning doesn’t come from staring at a screen or even reading a book, but from connections and experiences built.
I hope to instill in John, that it is ok to say “I don’t know” as well as resources that can help beyond the tablet/computer. This week as the roads clear we are planning a trip to the library (while he has been to libraries regularly for years, this will be the first time since we moved and I think we will gain more understanding of what a library actually is) and I can’t wait to see what kinds of books he brings home and the discussions they lead to.
Personally, I have felt lately there have been so many things in my life that my response has been I don’t know, but I think it’s time to really commit to learning and not relying on Google or five minutes on a blog or forum to carry me through. It’s time to dig deep and renew my love for learning and deepen my understanding.
Do you find yourself constantly having to look things up? Have you been putting off deeper understanding? What’s one thing you can do this week to stop browsing and really learn something?