Teaching Opinion

Too Many Rules Can Hinder Curiosity in the Classroom

By Starr Sackstein — January 19, 2017 2 min read
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Since my foot has healed enough to get back into my workout routine, I’ve had the opportunity to catch up on my favorite podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.

It’s always enjoyable and motivating to me to listen to this podcast and really consider connections between a text I love so much and the profession that helped to define a part of my life.

The episodes I’ve listened to recently have called on two ideas that I spend a lot of time with: curiosity in terms of how we see the world. In Harry’s case, this is the magical world and the control we have or don’t have to humor that curiosity.

What the episode really called up for me as an educator is how authority figures often lose their sense of authority or at least have to maintain a boundary that makes it challenging to fully explore our own curiosity or the curiosity of our students inside of the school setting.

In many cases, when we are afforded opportunities to make our own decisions about where and how we learn or how we teach, that level of ownership naturally connects with curiosity. However, when someone else dictates how and why we MUST learn or do something, regardless of how interesting it may be, there is a level of control that kills whatever possible curiosity that could naturally occur.

This happens all the time in education...

Not just to the students we teach, but to us and our administrators.

Too often, folks outside of the daily experience are telling us what needs to be done rather than allowing us as professionals or curious human beings to explore the process in a meaningful way. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for a framework, but flexibility inside of that framework is essential for actual long term learning to happen.

When we remove this autonomy from a learning experience, we quash the hope of reaching more people. Teachers are often told what PD to attend and students are certainly controlled for the most part in the manner of which and content explored in school.

It’s a travesty.

If we want to foster curiosity and develop a growth mindset, we need to loosen the reins on many of the rules and requirements of traditional schools. If we allow teachers to take risks and meaningfully adjust classes to the students sitting in front of them, providing more choice and opportunity for growth, then learning will happen more naturally.

Formative assessments can be an integral part of how we keep students accountable for their learning as well as providing many opportunities for reflection and actionable feedback throughout the process. Students shouldn’t be the only ones asking, “how am I doing?” Teachers need to be asking it too and not just of their supervisors, but of their students.

When we consider the populations that we serve, we must always remember that learning is an on-going process that should foster a natural curiosity. Kids should be asking questions and getting involved - taking ownership of what they do and how they do it.

Thanks again, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text for forcing me to think about these important ideas. It just goes to show that you don’t know where your lessons or wonderings will come from, so it’s so important to stay open.

How can you foster curiosity in your classrooms or school to make learning more meaningful? Please share

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