As an English teacher, in my heart of hearts, I was teaching my students that words have long been and still are a tool that people use to find their way through the world and forge connections with one another. This was not, of course, what any middle or high school student I ever taught would report they learned in my class. What would they say, though, they learned about life from my class? Was I teaching them the old myth that if they kept up with their work and studied hard enough, they would always succeed? Was I teaching them that their skills, talents, and worth could be measured with a grade? Was I teaching them that if they did more, they would earn extra credit? (You don't have to make it fully into adulthood to know there is no context in real life when the word "extra" applies to credit.)
To this day, I would wager I am a good test taker and essay writer, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't find myself during Meeting for Worship wishing that I could study for a test or write a paper rather than learn through lived experience. Most days, I find myself still at a loss as to how to help my eight-year-old understand that some problems are pebbles and not boulders (to borrow the FSH metric), and I’m ready to give up on teaching my toddler to fall asleep by himself in the dark. I'd rather be handed a study guide and take a comprehensive exam on the minutia of child development than actually live through it. I've read the full course of parenting books, after all, and I *may* have even used a highlighter--and yet, each day reveals that there's still so much I don't know.
Today, as parents and teachers and politicians and scientists around the world grapple with uncertainty, it is as good a moment as any to start teaching children of any age about things that remain unknown or are even unknowable. It doesn't have to scare them or throw their understanding of the world completely off-kilter. My response when my older son wants to know when we'll have a new President: "I don't know for sure. I do know I will vote for one." My response when my younger one asks when he will get to go to Mommy's school: “I'm not sure just when, but someday.” We should give ourselves a bit of extra credit for teaching our kids that not everything has an answer or can be resolved, known, or explained. Sometimes, we have to live with the not-knowing, as hard as that is and trust that somehow, somewhere, this, too, is the right answer.