I am a wondering addict. The questions in my mind seem endless. The world, people, ideas (everything!), are to me, objects of fascination. My curiosity is fed by a deep hunger to understand and to learn about the world and what makes people tick. For as long as I can remember, I have imagined the world inviting me into conversation, inviting me to question, to think and to discover.
This is why I love being around young children. To the child even the smallest thing is a miracle at work. In the eyes of a child seeing rain for the first time, we see the birth place of curiosity. The delight of children wondering has added intense richness to my life. They are truly our youngest theorists, waiting to be heard.
I will never forget asking the children in my Year One class what they wondered about. I sat back in delight as they filled the air with the richest of questions, finding myself delighted with their unexpected take on the world. Tyler wondered out loud, “How do fish see without goggles?”. My reply, “Yeah, how do fish see without goggles?”. Learning to listen to children’s wonderings and embrace their innate curiosity is my great delight as a teacher.
Curiosity has shaped my love of learning and my love of teaching.
Years ago, I almost gave up on becoming a teacher. I found myself in a world where it seemed the most valuable teacher was the one who had their class most ‘under control’. I couldn’t bear the thought of spending my professional life trying to keep a bunch of kids ‘in line’ and ‘on track’. My attempts to convince children to ‘comply with my will’ were, most often, an utter failure. I laugh, looking back at one horrendous lesson, where a child in my class got up and started to dance. When I asked him why he was dancing he replied, “I just thought I’d do something interesting for the class while you figure out what you’re doing”. Funny now – not so much at the time!
I felt no joy as I was encouraged to resort to stickers and other equally ‘sticky’ techniques to gain children’s compliance to my ‘teaching plan’. I wanted children to want to learn for learning’s sake – not because I was holding a carrot over them, or because I was threatening with a metaphorical stick. How could I teach in a manner that motivated children to bring their wonderings and questions into the classroom? How could I share my delight in uncovering knowledge and making connections? What needed to change in me for the children in my class to take their learning seriously and to re-engage with their innate sense of wonder?
My journey as a teacher has been shaped by this desire to welcome, strengthen and make visible children’s innate sense of wonder. As children question what they see and know, they open themselves up to new understandings and a world full of possibility. The same is true for teachers. Teaching, as an art, demands curiosity. It requires a soul who is willing to question and take risks in order to discover treasures yet unknown. To be curious is to admit there is much we don’t know, much we still have to learn.
The curious listen more carefully, observe more intently and refuse to give up.
I invite you to join me as a curious teacher, committed to wondering and exploring the deep riches of what it means to teach and learn.
The first time I heard Jill speak was at an ECA Conference. Jill’s presentation about learning with children immediately captivated me as it was highly visual, exploded with powerful children’s images and delivered in a narrative style. Jill then visited our Early Learning Centre at The Friends’ School and worked with educators to begin a reimagining of our centre and our pedagogy. She approached this project with optimism, enthusiasm and a real desire to listen to our thoughts and ideas. Jill has the ability to think laterally and “unearth” future possibilities in educational settings and I would highly recommend her to work in any creative, school setting with individuals and groups.Kate Newton, The Friends’ School