Little Magic Socratic Moments

Each morning we have been doing Socratic Discussions using open-ended questions with no right answer. Some examples of starting questions over the past few days have been:
What does it mean to be kind?
Is it always better to tell the truth?
Is it better to do something you're good at and succeed, or do something difficult that you struggle through and accomplish in the end?

This morning, we asked the question, What is risk? and had a lively discussion about risk vs. reward and what we would do in situations where we could take big or small risks. 

Some questions were easy for them to answer, like is it riskier to jump off a chair or jump off the roof of a building? Some said, it depends on how tall the building is, which starts to get at the size of the risk vs. the reward.

Then we got to a tougher question: would you rather take a large risk with a huge reward, like becoming a billionaire, or take a small risk with a small reward. A few heroes chimed in that they would choose to take a big risk. Then, we asked, "What if you could lose your house if you failed but become a billionaire if you succeed, or you take a small risk with a small reward." We took a poll and about 2/3 would choose the small risk, and the other 1/3 chose the massive risk. 

Part of the beauty of this is that at the beginning, a few heroes were answering the questions and others were sitting quietly. Were they listening? We got our answer by the end when everyone voted and gave their reasoning for which risk they would be inclined to take in our example.

Then the discussion turned to a Hero who was late to circle and had to sit out, and we found out that he was helping two other Heroes who had just arrived. So we posed a vote about whether the helping Hero should have to sit out, and one Hero said, yes, a rule is a rule. The rest of the group seemed to be pondering-it wasn't an easy question to answer.

Then we asked, "Does anyone see how this is related to our discussion?" Blank stares. "I am rushing to get to the circle, the countdown has started - and I see other friends that I could help. Do I risk being late and sitting out in order to help them?"

One Hero said no, I don't like sitting out of the circle. And then a third-grade hero said, "It depends on what they need help with. If they need help with unpacking their stuff then probably not. But if they need help with something hard that they can't do, then I would help."

It's these thought processes, nuances, and distinctions that lead to critical thinking skills, and it is amazing to watch the Heros grapple with these questions. It reminds us of what a privilege it is to be involved in their journeys. 

Hi, I'm Sarah Cheek.

Co-founder and Head of School at Acton Academy Seacoast

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