As 992,400 Victorian students start the 2019 school year, their families and teachers hold many hopes for them and their futures. My personal hope is that they never lose their spirit of curiosity.
Bobby is a five year old and one of those 82,000 students starting school for the first time in Victoria this year. When he was 3 years old, Bobby was sitting outside staring at the sky. I asked him what he was doing and he replied, "contemplating". Impressed with his choice of vocabulary and wanting to test his understanding of the word I asked, "and what are you contemplating?" He eagerly responded "why the clouds move like that". This response confirmed, not only his ability to use sophisticated contextual language but also an innate sense of curiosity. We never want Bobby or any young person to lose their sense of curiosity, however as humans mature, this trait can be less evident.
So what is curiosity?
The Collins Dictionary defines curiosity as; 'a desire to know about something' and Wikipedia states: 'curiosity is a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning, evident by observation in humans and other animals. Curiosity is heavily associated with all aspects of human development, in which derives the process of learning and desire to acquire knowledge and skill.' If you accept those definitions then surely nurturing curiosity must be a core task for all educators.
Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying "I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." Whilst curiosity is embedded in all humans, the extent to which it is demonstrated differs. The good news is that curiosity can be developed and there are many sources of advice to assist in that quest. In a recent Harvard Business Review article: The Business Case for Curiosity, author Francesca Gino shared the benefits of nurturing curiosity for business and proposed five strategies to bolster it.
Dalia Molokhia is a senior learning solutions manager at Harvard Business Publishing Corporate and recently used her blog to suggest some ways to develop curiosity. These included: being open to and looking for new and novel ways of doing things: seeking first to understand, not to explain (echoing Stephen Covey's work): trying something new: being deliberately inquisitive:
These are a few of my thoughts and some ideas about developing curiosity.
How do you stay curious?
International Women's Day Reflection
International Women's Day occurs this Friday. As educators, let's take a moment to reflect on why this day matters.
In the late 1960s, Ann Jones entered the Victorian Public Education system as a freshly minted first year English secondary teacher. Ann loved to teach and was eager to share her knowledge with the young people in her care. The first year male teacher in the classroom next to her had a similar spirit. However, there were major differences between them. Ann was not paid the same salary as her male colleague. Why? Because she was a woman and women did not need the same salaries as men as they were not going to be the main breadwinners in the family - they would have a husband to support them. A year later, Ann married. Like all women in her day, she was forced to resign and become a temporary teacher, with none of the benefits of permanency. Why? Because she was a married woman and married women did not need permanent jobs as they would have babies and stay at home to look after them.
Fast forward to 2019. Due to hard-fought collective efforts from female and male educators and trade unionists we now have equal pay for women teachers and women do not need to resign when they marry. Generous family leave entitlements assist primary carers to balance family and work.
But disparities remain. Despite the fact that the majority of primary school teachers are female and increasing numbers of secondary teachers are female, the leadership of schools remains disproportionately male. Studies of schools suggest that levels of sexual harassment continue amongst students and are most commonly directed against young women teachers - the hastag metoo movement has not yet appeared to catch up with our schools.
What can we do? Encouraging more women to move into the principalship is one way forward. But equal numbers of women and men in the principalship will not necessarily guarantee a change of attitudes and values. That is where awareness raising, understanding of principles of social justice and taking action for change - calling out sexist/racist/homophobic attitudes amongst students, teachers and leaders is critical. Ann Jones is in her 80s now and eventually fought her way back into the teaching service and went on to have a long career as an outstanding teacher. Her story reflects that of women educators in previous generations all over the nation. But the fight is not over. It is up to each of us to take it on board, and do whatever we can to build change, one step at time. That is our challenge - that is why International Women's Day matters. Because it gives us time to reflect, to come together as a collective of women and men and to keep fighting for what is right and just.