Where’s the E?

Most teachers have–from time to time–encountered a completely random question from their students. It’s the nature of the profession. However, if you are a teacher of middle school children, you know that these random questions are not so much from time to time but rather most of the time.

For example, earlier this week I was talking to my students about an extra credit opportunity based on the grade they earned on an assignment. I put the grade scale on the board with the accompanying extra credit points:

  • 100 – 90% = A = 5 extra credit points
  • 89 – 80% = B = 4 extra credit points
  • 79 – 70% = C = 3 extra credit points

You get the picture, right?

Well, as I’m getting the students ready for the extra credit assignment…I’m explaining the steps, what they have to do, when the grades will be updated, and then suddenly a hand shoots straight up in the air.

I saw the students quietly talking while I was explaining the assignment, so naturally I figured someone was going to ask me a question about what I just said because they were talking while I was talking.


What occurred next is completely normal in a middle school classroom…

  • S1: Why isn’t there an E?
  • Me: What?
  • S1: You know, we have A, B, C, D, and F
  • Me: . . .
  • S2: Yeah, so where’s the E?
  • Me: Um, I . . .don’t . . . know . . . ?
  • S1: It makes no sense
  • S2: Yeah, there really should be an E

It was a question about the grade scale.

At this point, I busted out laughing, because what else can you do when posed with a random question like that?

I suppose some teachers might balk at being interrupted with what may seem like a completely off-topic question…and sometimes I’m a bit taken back, too. But truth be told, I want my students to ask questions. It shows that they are engaged…that they are thinking…and that they want answers.

Other reasons why I love random questions is because it shows that…

  • Middle schoolers are still curious about things
  • Middle schoolers harbor little fear when it comes to asking the weird questions
  • Middle schoolers have no problem seeking an answer the moment they have a question even if it’s not remotely related to the task or topic at hand
  • Middle schoolers are not afraid to ask me questions (Yay!)
  • Middle schoolers think I have the answers (Ha! Yeah right)

I felt the need to share this because I know that some teachers may get perturbed by the random question. But why? Isn’t the curiosity of kids one of the best parts about being a classroom teacher? I love their thinking and where it takes them. Oh sure, random questions interrupt my train of thought (especially if I’m on a roll)…but I have to say when I stop and engage with my students, it’s all worth it in the end. I mean, don’t we tell our students to not be afraid of asking questions because someone else likely has the same question, too?

I’m convinced that middle schoolers have tons of random questions that pop in and out of their heads. And I love the moments when one of them shares their question with me. Not surprisingly, their peers are typically curious about the answer as well. And it gives all of us a chance to be human. To connect. Bond. And better yet…to have a good laugh together.

Have I mentioned that I love my middle schoolers?

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