My father was born at home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, just as the country emerged from the depression. Raised by a traveling salesman father and a mother who was a nurse, he immersed himself in his school work and the Boy Scouts. Whatever level of curiosity my father was born with, his teachers and Scout leaders nourished it by always challenging him to ask questions and explore. His courses, the pursuit of merit badges, camping trips, and club activities each instilled in him a deep respect for learning of all types. These opportunities worked in tandem with teachers and mentors to instill the power of wonder in his view of the world. To this day, he remains a lifelong learner—curious about just about everything.
I have been thinking about the impact the pandemic has had on our students’ sense of curiosity. Without the easy exposure to their teachers, peers, and opportunities that more traditional schooling provides, are they left captive to the echo of what they already know? Or have they found that the mitigated pace has given them time to read, to explore, and to imagine? I hope it is the latter because it will give them a chance to recognize the power they have to shape their future. In painfully short supply in the public discourse right now, curiosity is the lubricant that makes new ideas thrilling, new experiences transforming, and new perspectives invaluable. Curious kids are a teacher’s dream, a tonic that drives deep, meaningful conversations in the classroom and beyond. Particularly now, these students remind us why we have committed ourselves to the classroom and the school.
My father does not need more stuff, so he is not an easy person to buy gifts for. For his 86th birthday, I bought him a subscription to MasterClass in the hopes that it would offer a new resource to mine his curiosity without creating more clutter in his apartment. While getting him set up took his grandson’s technical prowess, my father has found a new way to stretch his mind and nourish his lifelong pursuit of wanting to know more. My weekly calls with him remind me how much I hope to remain curious and excited to keep learning and how important it is for us to recognize and encourage these habits in our students.