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Be Curious

Every once in a while, a show comes along that you can't stop watching. Sometimes it's the characters. Sometimes it's the plot. Sometimes it's everything all wrapped into one enthralling package. For those who haven't seen Ted Lasso, you're missing one heck of a series. There are too many scenes that have resonated with me to cover them all. But for the sake of this writing and the context behind education, I'd like to focus on one particular part.

Ted has been challenged to a game of darts by the owner's ex-husband. As the game unfolds, Ted is forced to hit three difficult shots to win the game. Prior to those shots, he mentions to Rupert (Rebecca’s Ex-Husband) that all through his life, people have underestimated him. In his own words, “but if they were curious, they would have asked, "do you play darts?" Ted responds, "Yep, through the ages of ten to 16, every Sunday with my dad until he passed away!" As Ted hit's the three shots and wins the game, the crowd breaks out into cheers.

The scene is a feel-good moment that made me think about all the times we are in front of our students learning about their lives. You see, education is never just about a lesson we teach, a test we give, or a project we assign. While those all matter, what truly ends up shaping the lives of our students is being curious about who they are and bringing that curiosity into how they experience and learn in our schools and classrooms. Whether you are new to education or a seasoned veteran, we've all had those moments that made us say, "wow, I'm so glad I tried that!" Or, when a student says, "that teacher made me want to do something more than just the minimum." While I believe that being curious has always existed in education, it's more important today than ever. Because children and teens have access to information at their fingertips, it’s easy to assume that their curiosity has waned. In reality, using Tik-tok, Instagram, or Snapchat should never influence our willingness or ability to get them curious about learning.

The great thing about getting students curious is how it promotes our own curiosity. When our classes explore new types of learning, we also see how lessons can be improved or modified. I've long been amazed at assignments or projects that we’ve done in class done that were bred out of ideas that were not originally planned. Whether it's a creative video, slideshow, story, or even a student talking in front of the class, the benefits to everyone can't be quantified. So how do we get that curiosity flowing and growing?

We first must look at our current teaching to see if it promotes curiosity. I can't say what a lesson that supports curious learning looks like in each class, but you know it when you see it. If your students ask questions, try new ideas to learn, don’t ask, “how much is this worth?”, and experiment beyond the minimum necessary, you know you're doing something right.

As I reflect on all the writings I've done these past few years, I've probably mentioned "start slow with success" more than any other term. While many students may be curious by nature, education tends to suppress this idea as students get older. We see compliance as the norm rather than testing the limits of learning. When you begin planning lessons to get that curiosity back into students' minds, it's imperative that having success early on matters. If failure becomes the common theme, compliance will always come back as the normal reset.

Whether it's the beginning of the year or even towards the end, I believe that having students curious about each other is a crucial tenet to a more inclusive, happy, and respectful classroom space. There are no set exact rules for making this happen. I love just having students chatting with each other about specific prompts that I'll give them. Things like: discuss with a partner/group your favorite songs, bands, and television show with a partner/group - tell each other something about you that makes you proud - what are some of your favorite things to do outside of school? Of course, you can develop many ideas for building that curiosity among students. The sky is the limit! Please remember to keep the initial thoughts non-stressful and things that every student can answer.

Once you've got the curiosity bug going in class, a great way to close many lessons is by reflecting on what students have learned, whether it's about themselves, a content area, fellow students, or even you! Getting students to think back on the positive interactions and ideas they've gained makes the time fly by and leaves them wanting more.

Finally, curiosity is part of our human psyche! All of us have some sense of curiosity. Students are no different. We can weave so many elements of the school experience around developing a curious mindset that the outcomes are endless. Whether it's assessments, connections, team building, or just having conversations; I’m curious is all about the great things you do each day.

Thank you for being curious!

About the Author

Craig Shapiro

I’ve been a Health and Physical Education Teacher/Coach/Trainer for 30+ years. I enjoy all types of fitness, writing, speaking, and spending time with my family! Stay positive, stay happy, stay well!

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