#DailyWritingChallenge – Curiosity

Curiosity.

It is a strong desire which can lead to disastrous consequences or to something great depending on the situation.

I have always been curious.  When I was a child, my moments of curiosity were called ‘what if’ moments by my Mother.  This is due to the fact that my curiosity usually ended badly.  They mostly involved pressing buttons I shouldn’t have pressed and were used as lessons to be learned.  In school I wasn’t a spiteful child but I found myself in tricky situations…usually because of my curiosity.  I can imagine I was frustrating to both my parents and teachers as I was one of those children.  The one who could do something ‘if they put their mind to it.’

This curiosity is still there and hopefully will always be present in the way that I approach life.  I have, however, learned to know the right place and time to show curiosity.  I know there are moments when my thirst to find out more would be bad timing and not the correct approach.  I know there are other times when curiosity could lead to better things and so why not ask the question?  This understanding has taken time and I still don’t always get it right.  Nowadays my teasing, cheeky side manifests itself online, on social media.  There are moments I can’t resist poking the bear to see what happens.  One example of this was last year, just before taking up my current position in Morocco.  The Ambassador tweeted about the exciting news that the deal to build the first British school in Morocco had been made.  I was sat there with a job offer for a British school in Morocco and so I was intrigued.  I replied to his tweet, asking about the school I was about to work at.  The exchange was pleasant enough, but roll on a week later and I was having an email conversation with my future head who brought up my tweet and urging me to exercise caution.  I learned the valuable lesson that employers and colleagues could see anything you post online and also that sometimes you ask questions online you wouldn’t necessarily ask face to face.

From a teacher perspective, most school mission statements either infer or explicitly state that they look to foster curiosity.  It is a word that, for prospective parents, instantly hints towards expressive freedom and the opportunity to ask questions.  It suggests that the school encourages free thought and diversity of ideas.  I think that this entirely right and we should be using this idea from a  marketing point of view but also from a teaching point of view.

In the classroom however, how many of us actually allow full-on curiosity?  On the one hand we want our children to be individuals with confidence to experiment with ideas but on the other hand, too much curiosity leads to diversion from the main goal of the lesson and unit of study.  This shouldn’t really be an issue for us, but we always have that niggling element of guilt that we allowed a lesson or child go off on a tangent and we lost valuable time working on the official goal of the lesson.   This is where I really enjoy the concept of Project Based Learning.  There is still a structure to any projects set using this model but I really enjoy allowing a lot more time for trial and error, allowing curiosity to lead to the approach.  We, as teachers become the guides, the sounding boards and filters for the ideas.  We put a lot fewer restrictions on curiosity and this can only be a good thing.

I have two very curious daughters.  They are at an age when questions make up most of their day.  They are generally linguistically competent and are now asking all the other questions about anything and everything.  This curiosity is raw.  It is unguided and natural.  It can be extremely annoying at times but has to be lauded.  Some of the questions being asked are so insightful and straight to the point.  Would children at a later stage still ask similar questions? If not, is it because they know all the answers already or is it because they have become conditioned to answer questions within the etiquette-heavy school environment?

I think there are two points I am getting at.  Firstly I think that there can be good curiosity and bad curiosity from an impact point of view.  I don’t think that we necessarily channel our curiosity to do bad things but it can have a negative impact or positive impact depending on various factors.  The other point is that the curricula we are being asked to teach on the whole restrict curiosity rather than promote it.  Many may claim to allow for cross-curricular, investigative approaches but they still have hundreds of objectives and timelines.  Would it work if we let the children loose once in a while to explore their own curiosity?  Would a lack of set guidelines hinder or promote a more curious approach to life?

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