Today I was working in a second-grade class pulling students and asking them a comprehension question after a read aloud.  The work was to help inform some coaching work with teachers and I was pulling half the class (the teacher was doing the same with the other half).

I pulled a little girl who I knew from reading with and assessment scores, was above grade level.  She’s, as we say in New England, wicked smart.  I was excited to chat with her and hear her talk about the book and answer my question.

After she sat down and we chatted for a minute, I asked her the question.  She sat silent.  I waited.  And waited.  And then waited some more.  I didn’t time her, but honestly, she must have sat for a good solid minute.  Now I know a minute doesn’t sound like a really long time, but when you’re simply sitting waiting for an answer to a question, those sixty seconds can feel very long.

Just when I was about to repeat the question or try to give her an out, she opened her mouth, and I kid you not, articulated the most beautiful, perfect answer.  I’ve been asking the same question to a lot of kids and her answer was simply the best I’ve heard.  It was textbook.

As I went over the results with the teacher, I reflected on her think time.  We had a wonderful conversation about how kids, and well really adults too, often feel the need to speak immediately when asked a question.  I told her about an article I’d read on interviewing once that urged candidates to take a good thirty seconds to think before answering a question.  Better to have a thoughtful, articulate answer than to simply begin speaking nonsense.

Well, this little girl has this knowledge already.  This is a lesson for children (and adults) – in our instant gratification society, it’s not only alright but perhaps sensible to wait, take time to think and compose your thoughts before opening your mouth to speak.