Have you ever heard the saying “curiosity killed the cat”? I reckon through this saying, curiosity has gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years and has taught generations NOT to be curious when, as educators (and parents!) it should be our bread and butter. While the saying originated in the 16th century, the great Albert Einstein probably said it best – “curiosity is more important than knowledge”. So… with that in mind, how are we embracing curiosity in the 21st-century classroom??
I was a pretty traditional teacher when I picked up the chalk at the end of last century. Something would go wrong in my class (you know, all the big things like a student calling out, distracting others, not focussing on their work, etc.), and I would react, carry on like a pork chop, and then dish out the punishment. This went on for years, in line with teaching from the front of the class in an authoritarian (i.e. traditional) model.
This worked until I figured out it actually didn’t, and it wasn’t.
Thank goodness restorative practices, where the relationship is placed at the centre of our teaching, came along and were embraced by the school I was teaching at. It saved a generation of kids from cranky Mr Blinkhoff! Without being too dramatic, it also probably saved me from quitting the profession around 20 years ago and set me on the course of being a quality educator, which led to school leadership roles and then into my current role as an Expert Facilitator with Real Schools. Teaching actually became fun and meaningful, and I was making a difference thanks to restorative practices! At the end of the day, I also felt a bit better about myself.
But back to curiosity. One of the many things I’ve learnt about restorative practice over the years is the importance of not looking at a behaviour incident to punish (punitive model) but with a view of being curious – exploring the meaning and context behind the behaviour. What are the antecedents? What are the triggers? What is the young person (or parent or staff member) trying to actually tell us through their exhibited behaviours, many times driven by their limbic system (i.e. emotional) response.
So… and this is a world first, a Real Schools exclusive if you like, I’m officially changing the saying to ‘Curiosity DIDN’T kill the cat’. In actual fact, curiosity helped the cat have a deeper understanding and greater appreciation of the world around it and was able to go out and make a difference in the world. The cat is also less stressed and less likely to retire or leave the profession early. How good is that!
Right, let’s see if it catches on…