I was at child protection training today. It is never the most enjoyable of training experiences but clearly, it is essential we do it. The presenter urged us to be ‘professionally curious’. To wonder why a child is presenting to us in the way that they are.
I have also been busy recently finding out about digital citizenship and how to take the next steps with this within my school setting. As part of my information gathering, I watched the very inspiring Devorah Heitner talk about how, if we really want to find out about what children are doing online, we need to get curious about what makes them tick and what motivates their online behaviour.
Curiosity is perhaps our greatest tool as teachers. Harnessing the power of ‘I wonder why’ opens a vast array of doors into learning, emotional behaviour, adverse childhood experiences. And where it doesn’t throw open a door, it might just unlock a window, provide a tiny chink of knowledge, only gleaned about a child and his or her life through being curious and asking why. For instance:
Why does he take three pieces of bread with his lunch every day?
Why does she hide her phone when adults walk past?
Why does he kick off every Tuesday afternoon right before PE?
Why is she so focused on getting full marks on this test?
And the biggest and most powerful why of all:
Why is his head down today?
Find out the answer to that and you will find out everything you need to know to help that child.
To be good at what we do, we have to wonder why.
But you know what? It’s actually not enough. It is not enough to be curious just about the young people you work with. Because curiosity begins at home. We need to turn the spotlight on ourselves and our practice and get really curious, asking:
I wonder why I reacted like that…
I wonder what would happen if I changed this….
I wonder what it would be like to….
I wonder if it’s time to do less…
I wonder if it’s time to do more…
I wonder how I could make that work for…
These questions are highly flammable; they ignite learning. If you want to be good at what you do, you need to keep these questions in your back pocket and use them like lighter fluid; spray liberally in amongst the orderly and carefully stacked dry wood of your usual routine and then strike a match. Throw a question in and watch it light up your practice.
And then be ready to kindle the flames. Because there’s no point in letting your curiosity be a flash in the pan. If you’re going to go to the effort of asking the hard questions, you need to be ready to stoke the learning and keep it burning. And that means spreading the good word. Put another way, you need to make your curiosity contagious and infect everyone you work with.
Make the flammable questions part of everybody’s daily business and you build a fire so big and so bright it becomes unstoppably brilliant.
There are lots of ways you can get going. Ask a flammable question in the staffroom. Write a blog post or start keeping a little journal of your wonderings- it doesn’t matter what your why is, it just matters that you ask it.
Get to or organise a TeachMeet and surround yourself with curious people just like you.
You might even be heading to the glorious Pedagoo Muckle this weekend. This will be a proper solid tinderbox of an event, stuffed full of curious and inquiring people and questions who together will burn bright and kindle others as they go.
So if you are Muckle-bound this weekend (and even if you are not), remember:
Curiosity begins at home.
Ask the flammable questions.
Kindle others when you get back to school.
And always remember it is our job to push back the dark.