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.
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.
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."
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.