One of the great joys of being a teacher is to listen to the amazing things that children say when they feel a connection to something, or understand how things seem to work. The immense satisfaction that they show and the wonder in their voices is truly a treasure to witness.
The world is an amazing place to children. Every experience generates a new feeling, every place is an opportunity for exploration, and every person mysterious. Taking advantage of the natural curiosity of children is one of the greatest skills that a teacher develops. Regardless of the age of a child, for a teacher to be able to see where their interests are, encourage them to explore further, and then analyse what they have learned lies at the heart of, what research shows to be, most effective teaching practice.
When a child asks a question, it is usually from a very different perspective than when an adult asks a question. As an adult we anticipate an answer, often expecting our beliefs or understandings to be confirmed by the answers others give. A child asks a question because they want to know the answer – regardless of what it is. They are open to multiple answers to the same question, or to other questions being generated by their first one. Children enjoy the challenge of seeing where a question leads them.
Good teachers know this and give children freedom to explore what they find themselves passionate about. Great teachers allow children to take this curiosity to the very end, to follow where their questions take them and challenge and support as needed. Having someone around you who believes in the power of curiosity as a force to change the world is one that many creative thinkers of any generation credit as being instrumental in their success.
Those who retain this enormous curiosity are those who believe that the quest for answers is the answer itself. The greatest creators and innovators have always had to challenge what is the accepted norm of any industry, society or culture. Artists, scientists, musicians, astronomers, dancers, inventors, performers, explorers – all expressing their creativity in an individual way and following their passion to know more.
Undaunted and unafraid to fail, they continue to push themselves in their search for answers, to know themselves better, and expressing what is inside to those outside.
The true nature of curiosity is to follow the stream of questions and answers until you are satisfied with where the quest has taken you. To be curious is to be open to all the possibilities that the world has to offer, and accept them with equal value. As we grow older our curiosity seems to be limited by our experiences, which seems very odd, as we expect our vast variety of experiences to only strengthen our interest in what could be. What makes us less curious as we grow older? What makes all the endless possibilities seem overwhelming and seems to allows our curiosity to shrink? Sadly, schools seem to be one of the factors in the decline of curiosity in our children.
As we move ever-closer to a system of education here in Dubai where the measurable standard of success for a school is the KHDA Inspection Report, it is easy to see how the place of creativity in children, staff and schools could be squeezed out. Pressure on schools to show excellence by quantifying their ‘value added’ with standardised tests and exam results leaves little room for children to feel valued who express their joy of learning in different ways. How can you measure the success of curiosity, of creativity? So many questions that we ask will remain unanswered, and if the measure of success is that we come to a conclusion, then why seek answers if not being able to reach the very end is deemed a failure?
Many schools talk about encouraging children to be ‘risk-takers’ and explain the many ways in which children are encouraged to seek their own answers, and forge their own path. Wonderful ideals! Children are often encouraged and supported when following their curiosity, but at the end of the day if the answer is still elusive, or the work done does not lead to success, how is its value celebrated? The culture of the school must celebrate the Journey, not the Destination!
For those of us who teach in Early Childhood, this is no revelation. This is the day to day practice that we strive to elevate as we follow the dreams of the children in our care. Observing and recording significant developments, supporting children to share their interests, and inspiring them to question more, challenge further. The culture of curiosity in the lower years of school is uncrushable. The important question now seems to be how to expand this culture through a school as the children grow older and the demands of the curriculum grow stronger? How can we change the culture of a school?
How embedded is the culture of creativity within a school’s Management, within Leadership, and within the Teachers? Schools where staff are empowered to use innovative approaches to challenges, to be creative problem solvers, are leading the way and inspiring everyone within them to rise to the challenge. Everything from the design of the building, to the use of spaces inside, choice of furnishings and approaches to the use of technology tells you something about a school. Ensuring that the children within them remain visionary, and are equipped with the skills to follow their vision to its conclusion, that is the challenge for our future. Keeping children creative.
Vanessa Temple is the Head of Foundation Stage at Hartland International School and believes passionately in the wonder of children. She is instrumental in strengthening Hartland’s position in the community, with a passion to make a difference in a child’s life. Seeing children’s curious minds learn and their creativity develop during their formative years is a blessing. You can reach Vanessa through Linkedin or through Hartland International School.
The school is due to open in September 2015.
The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only. Readers are encouraged to seek appropriate independent legal advice.
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