Let me set the scene:
I'm a first year teacher. It's the first week of school. The first week of Kindergarten, nonetheless. We're learning about the letter 'M.' (It was a letter person. If you know what I'm talking about, you know you miss them).
The task at hand was to make a collage of things beginning with 'M.' I explain what the students need to do and naively say, "any questions?"
A boy in the middle of the group confidently raises his hand. His voice full of sincerity, he asks, "Why do frogs jump?" Eight years into my career, and this is still one of the cutest things that I've ever seen. I'd love to say that I went off script and launched into a great lesson regarding frogs and how awesome they are, but I said something like, "We can talk about that later, let's get to work!" Which, is a completely acceptable response. We all know that we've got to get through 8 million things in one day.
However, I think of this moment often. It was one of the first times as a teacher that things weren't going as I thought they would (though certainly not the last). I remember that his question took me by surprise. How did this 5 year old not know that I meant a question about the assignment and not a question about literally anything? (Hint: he's 5. With a million questions about everything).
I've learned to take those questions in stride. If I don't have time for the answers in the moment, we come back to it later. I'm honest with my students if I don't know the answer right away. Just like we know the importance in offering choice to our students, it's important to let them know that they should be curious about everything. Whether it pertains to the topic at hand or not. We live in a time where we have information at our fingertips 24/7. What good is that if we constantly just push onto the next thing?
Going off track with my students leads to insightful conversations, and often piggybacks into great learning. Some days it's hard. It's hard to let go of those 8 million things left to do on the checklist. But going off track just might lead to a better next station down the line.
Teacher, reader, tea drinker, and dog mom.