One of my favorite stories about Too Much Information is the one about the kid whose parent has been so dreading the "Where did I come from?" question that, when the question finally arises, she or he responds with a lengthy disquisition about mommies and daddies (or mommies and mommies, or daddies and daddies, or any other combination thereof), sperm and eggs, etc., etc., only to be met with a brow-furrowing "Oh."
When the parent follows up, asking if there are any further details the child wanted, the kid responds, "Well -- Petunia said that she is from Trenton."
I was remembering this story as I was filing away some of the nicest cards and notes I received from my students this year. More than one of them thanked me for always asking the student questioner or the whole class if I had actually answered their questions.
This made me wonder, doesn't everybody do that?
When I worked in technical support and sales, I learned that this isn't just an important part of providing a correct and accurate answer. It's important for establishing the basis of trust that underlies the relationship.
When I started teaching math, I never even thought about the fact that I always asked a question-asker this question, but now I am starting to think about its importance. It doesn't matter so much for the "telling"/"lecturing"/"demonstrating"/"modeling" part of the process, but it sure matters a lot for building my relationship with my students and for establishing myself as a trustworthy guide to the world of mathematics. And it makes me wonder if this is how a lot of our students learn their habits of discouragement. I mean, if nobody ever asks them if they received what they asked for, doesn't that reinforce the unintended curricular idea that satisfying their personal curiosity doesn't matter?
Does anybody else out there have any experiences to share around this?