While you may have questions guiding your thinking, and this is a good thing, it is never appropriate to assume you can direct your questions to a person. Said another way, while it is good that you are thinking and have some boundaries around what it is that you are seeking to learn, you should not assume that you have a right to have your questions answered. There are many reasons for this.
First, knowledge does not unfold in linear ways. Continue to listen, read, and think. As the knowledge unfolds you will learn what is important when the time is right. As the knowledge unfolds you may learn that your guiding questions were not important after all.
Second, a good teacher will always respect your own journey. They will respect your process of learning because they know that if the journey to the knowledge is your own process of observing, participating, thinking, dreaming, and making the necessary cognitive connections you will come to embody the knowledge and remember it better than if the knowledge is simply handed to you on a plate. We need to value that knowledge is more than about a squirrel collecting nuts or about rote memory; this is especially so if the knowledge is deeply layered or requires conceptual reasoning skills.
Third, when the knowledge is of a personal nature it is not appropriate to ask questions. This is especially so if you do not have a proven good relationship, a proven trusting relationship, or a proven relationship of reciprocity with the person.
Fourth, if you are in a quest for knowledge it is really important to demonstrate that you will be responsible first. Responsibility means many things such as you will act in a good and respectful way versus use the knowledge for personal gain; or when the knowledge is of a personal nature you will not use it to gossip about and thus harm.
Fifth, it must be understood that the most important knowledge will not be shared and we may never know it because the knowledge is too personal. Sometimes you have to trust your authority versus question it.
© Lynn Gehl, Ph.D. is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley. She is a published author of Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit and The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin on the Algonquin Land Claims Process. You can reach her and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com.