Le Petit Prince Was Right

Le Petit Prince was right. On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

As a high school student (lo those many years ago), I read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery in the original French. This classic fable has stood the test of time, offering up a plenitude of memorable quotes, but none more resonant with me than this one:  “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

What is essential is invisible to the eye.

What is essential is invisible to the eye.

Today while students spent one more day digesting turkey; teachers devoted time to professional development. As one of our district priorities is curriculum mapping, the teacher-librarians met to develop essential questions (and enduring understandings) to go with each of our instructional units.

According to our curriculum mapping software, “an essential question is used to provide focus for a course or a unit of study in the form of a question and keeps the focus on inquiry as opposed to answers.” While I have informally used essential questions in the past, today’s endeavor required a rigorous approach, correlating essential questions to standards, content and skills already input into the database.

And so we dove in. Fingers were flying on keyboards, questions and clarifications ping-ponging back and forth. As a professional development session it was extremely productive, yielding dozens of potential essential questions such as:

  • How can we be safe and savvy on the Internet?
  • How does the medium and technique of a book’s illustrations affect the mood of a story?
  • Why do we classify and organize information, knowledge and things?
  • How can historical fiction help me to have a better understanding of history?
  • How can I develop strategies to find information relevant to my research question or personal need?

Productive? Yes. Focus on inquiry? Absolutely. Collaborative? Without a doubt. A successful workshop indeed.

And yet, a little itchy thought niggled at my brain. Something essential is missing from these essential questions. And the little prince had the wisdom to see it. “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Yes, these essential questions are important. But we must not forget the (invisible) human connections and relationships between teacher and students. They are as necessary to arriving at an enduring understanding, the “big idea that has enduring value…beyond the…classroom” as the essential questions themselves.

Since this revelation is so important to me, I turn to those who can express it more eloquently than I. Please find time to take a hop, skip and a jump over to the words of two profound writers–Katherine Sokolowski and Jack Schneider. Katherine, who blogs at Read, Write, Reflect, (a must-read blog for teachers, librarians, parents, principals and policy makers) talks about relationships as the core of her teaching. In this sm post she links to Jack Schneider’s wise words published in the Washington Post. In my humble opinion, these are both essential reading.

I would love to hear what you think.

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