Cultivating Curiosity

I pick my daughter up from school most days. My schedule doesn’t always allow me this pleasure, but whenever possible I like to be the first one to talk to her about her day. I treasure the 5 minute drive home because that is the time with just her when I can hear the excitement in her voice about what she did and learned in school during that day.  I value this time for all of the parent reasons, primarily a love and desire for my daughter that goes deeper than any words can express, but also because I work with high school students on a daily basis. It isn’t always the case, but typically a high school student does not have the same shine in their eyes and excitement in their voice when they describe their day at school. Somewhere along the line, things changed for them and the conversations that I have with my daughter keep that energy alive for me.

I, like most educators, enjoyed school and still enjoy learning. Independent of the level of school I have been at, one constant has fueled that love for education; a deep rooted curiosity about the world around me. This curiosity has stayed with me in my adult life and it is one of the things that I hold most dear. Though it drives my wife nuts, it is what motivates me to have my iPad open surfing the web while watching tv at night, spurred into a quick search by a random factoid dropped in a sitcom. I see this curiosity in my daughter’s eyes after school and hear it in the questions that my other daughter asks; they want to know about the world around them. They aren’t motivated by grades and rewards, they are driven by the deep desire and hunger for knowledge.

Somewhere between the ages of my daughters (4 and 6) and high school students lose some of that curiosity. Many become content with being told how to do something rather than discovering it on their own. They have learned how to get by without having to think and process and develop. My hope and wish for each of these students is that they get the privilege of taking a class with a gifted teacher that challenges them to think and ask questions. I hope that they find someone that frustrates them by not telling them the answers but instead making them find them on their own. And I hope that in that teacher they find someone that cultivates the innate curiosity that they had when they were young and develops it into a craving for future knowledge.

Before high stakes testing, AYP, report cards, grades, and even schools there was curiosity. Though it may have killed the cat, it has also challenged conventional wisdom and done amazing things throughout history. I hope for my own children and for all of the students out there that the curiosity doesn’t die and that it is always a motivator to seek more knowledge.

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