Over the past several months, many resources have crossed my desk and my screen, via social media, encouraging schools to focus on curiosity. Some asking schools to instill curiosity in students while others encourage teachers to ask questions to identify issues and topics students wonder about.
Consistent in these resources are the concepts of creativity, inspiration, questioning, engagement, relevance and mysteries; leading me to be curious if these concepts are common in today’s schools. I believe there is a positive connection between what interests students, their motivation to learn and their positive development.
In my experience — over the past 30 years working in schools and 12 years as a K-12 student — the answer is that there is very little alignment between the concepts common to curiosity and common to schooling.
This is not to say that some teachers in some schools engage their students’ curiosity by asking the right questions, seeking their insights, ensuring relevance of academic subjects to their lives and responding to their inquiries. However, before we can integrate strategies to incorporate curiosity into classrooms, schools must first create and ensure there is a corresponding school climate. Far too often schools assist teachers to acquire/enhance new strategies but fail ensure they are supported by the quality and character of the school.
For me, context is as important as content. That is why I advocate for creating and sustaining a school climate that encourages and responds to the curiosity of students.
Think about a school that is welcoming of all questions students ask about things they care about. Consider a school that is willing to not have all the answers to questions students ask and find the answers together. And, how about a school that takes time for students to ponder about things that intrigue them.
If we do not create a school climate described above it will be difficult for teachers to implement classroom strategies that foster rather than inhibit curiosity.
As we create school climates that encourage and support curiosity in students, I believe we will find that teachers, staff, administrators and parents will also be encouraged to be more curious about things that are of interest and matter to them.