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Curious to the Core
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Each week, an educator takes a stand or shares an Aha! moment in the classroom in Education World's Voice of Experience column. This week, educator Brenda Dyck reflects on the "curious" gene that she and her students share! Curiosity can lead students to be ostracized by their peers. The same is true for educators; curious educators can "move and shake" themselves right into professional isolation. But gifted students -- and teachers -- often learn how to compensate for their curiosity. They learn not to flaunt it in order to maintain relationships.


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As a teacher of gifted and talented students, I spend my days surrounded by learners who excel at being "curious." Their conversations are peppered with statements or questions:
"I've got an idea ..."
"Do you know ...?"
"I'd like to find out ..."
"What would happen if ...?"
"Where can I find ...?"
"Can we do an extra question?"

It's no wonder that this steady stream of inquiry can set some of these youngsters up for ridicule among their peers. Not everyone has an unquenchable thirst to know, and many students misinterpret such questioning banter as "brown-nosing" or bragging.

Teaching curious students has been a comfortable transition for me. One of the reasons I feel so at home is because of my own overactive curiosity concerning learning reform. I understand what it is like to have a mind that often operates in overdrive. As an educator, I am constantly on the lookout for methods that push the boundaries of conventional thought. The same type of questioning behavior exhibited by my students has fueled many of my own classroom initiatives.

Watching the resistance that my curious students encounter from their peers when they share ideas and questions might shed some light on why it can be difficult for teaching colleagues to celebrate one another's successes or willingly discuss learning reform.

RECOGNIZING CURIOUS PEOPLE

I have noticed that curious people share many similarities. They
  • love to share their every discovery.
  • delight in making the impossible possible.
  • thrive in problem-solving situations.
  • often think with their mouths.
  • are rarely satisfied with status quo answers and love the unusual.
  • are in a hurry to meet their goals.
  • seem to reach a level of success that threatens their peers.
  • can exhaust themselves and other people with their questions and their desire to change and grow.
  • can exhibit an intellectual arrogance that alienates themselves from their peers.

    NONE OF US IS AS SMART AS ALL OF US

    The traits above, if understood, might provide clues concerning how a diverse group of people can work together and support one another. Even my students have talked about and come up strategies to help them relate to their peers -- strategies such as the following:

    Stop.

    • Be selective: Don't share every single thought and idea that comes into your mind. Others have valuable ideas to share too.
    • People accept change at different speeds. Value the "cautious" as well as the "curious."

    Look.

    • Before you comment in a group, pause to see if one of your less impulsive peers has something to say.
    • In your zeal, you may give the impression of being a know-it-all.

    Listen.

    • There is an element of truth and wisdom within many ideas, even those with which you disagree.
    • Listen for the underlying message in what others say. Their insecurities and need to be recognized may have a lot to do with their resistance to change.
    • Pay attention to the unspoken message you are communicating.

    Searching for Voices

    Care to reflect on a classroom experience that opened your eyes? We're looking for teachers who would like to share an Aha! moment -- a moment in the classroom (or a moment of reflection outside the classroom) when you had a teaching epiphany? Or are you an educator with a unique opinion to share? Send a brief description only of an idea you might like to write about in Voice of Experience to voice@educationworld.com.

    Film director Sidney Pollack has some sound advice for educators who desire to unite the "curious" and the "cautious" so that the job of educating young people can get done:

    "... the more willing you seem to be to let people participate, the less need they have to force participation. It's the threat of being left out that exacerbates their ego problems and creates clashes."

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES


    Brenda Dyck teaches at ABC Charter Public School, a school for gifted and talented children, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In addition to teaching sixth grade math and science, Brenda is also the school librarian. She has written for various educational periodicals and is a teacher-editor for Midlink magazine.

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