I’ve always had a curious mind. I have an unquenchable thirst for learning and understanding the world around me. In fact, I can get overwhelmed by how much I don't know. So much to learn; so little time. Yet, lately I’ve been wondering how much more I would learn if I just looked a little more curiously at the world around me. What if I began to ask more questions about the things I experience? What if I engaged in more conversations with the people in my world?
In the book A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, author Brian Grazer shares the many curiosity conversations he’s had throughout his lifetime in the movie industry. From the onset of his career he was intentional about reaching out to people that he was curious about and setting up a time to chat. Sometimes the conversations lasted 20 minutes, other times they were over an hour. I find this idea fascinating. What if I became more intentional about scheduling curiosity conversations with people? How much would I learn about them and the world around me?
Recently I went to a conference in San Antonio by myself. That is not unusual as I often go to conferences alone, but what made this conference different was that my tribe was not there when I arrived; not one familiar face. It was a stark contrast to the year before at ISTE 2017 in San Antonio where so many of my PLN had gathered. I enjoyed making new connections, but it felt strange. As I left the convention center at noon on the last day, I realized I had the entire afternoon and evening to be a tourist in San Antonio. I changed into my comfy clothes and hit the streets to see all that I missed when I had been there the previous year. I strolled the River Walk, took a river boat ride, and toured The Alamo. I kept thinking of how fun it would have been to have my family or tribe with me, but there was something interesting that happened in the solitude. I let curiosity be my guide. I ventured down streets that looked interesting, walked into stores and restaurants that captured my attention, asked questions of people I encountered, people watched, and let my mind wander and wonder. When was the last time that I didn’t fill my itinerary with an agenda or a list of things to accomplish. There was something strangely freeing about this time I had in solitude.
After an afternoon walking around downtown San Antonio I decided to eat dinner in The Pearl district; an area that an Uber driver from the airport had suggested earlier that week. There were quaint little shops and an eclectic mix of restaurants and food kiosks that opened up to an outdoor seating area. I had just settled down with my food at the only open table I could find when a lady approached me and asked if she could sit with me. I said, “of course” and awkwardly tried to ascertain whether this lady wanted to engage in conversation or just eat in quiet. The thoughts that I was processing were similar to those I experience when settling into my seat on an airline flight. Should I strike up a conversation, or just put on my noise-cancelling headphones and fly in solitude? Just as I was weighing my options, she introduced herself and began to ask why I was in San Antonio on a Saturday night alone. It wasn’t long before I learned this lady’s extraordinary story. She was battling stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer and was in San Antonio to attend a breast cancer symposium on a scholarship. Just a few days prior her doctor had discovered a brain tumor and she was still reeling from the news and what this would mean in her fight against this disease that had invaded her body. As she opened up about her brave and inspiring journey, I felt an immediate connection to this amazing human being and all she was doing to provide support, encouragement, and strength to others on a similar journey as her own. We chatted for over an hour when I discovered she had been a teacher prior to her diagnosis four years earlier. We talked about the importance of joy and passion in teaching and learning and about my heart for making learning magical. As we parted ways, I embraced her in a tight hug as if I was saying goodbye to a dear friend. Because of her willingness to engage a stranger in a curious conversation, my life became richer that day. What if I had not been alone that night in San Antonio? What if I had appeared to be too preoccupied to engage in conversation and the lady hadn’t felt comfortable to begin a conversation with me?
As I think about my curious adventures that afternoon in San Antonio, I wonder how many curious conversations have I missed? How much richer would my life be if I was more intentional about sparking conversations with strangers. What would I learn? How would I grow? What may others learn from me?
In Make Learning Magical, I share the magic of curiosity. When we tap into curiosity, we experience the sheer joy of discovery. Creating an atmosphere of curiosity where students feel safe to explore and play is vital to building confidence and ownership of learning. There are so many ways we can bring curiosity into our classrooms, in fact the possibilities are endless. However, I wonder how often we avoid cultivating curiosity because it could disrupt the lesson plan, or cause the classroom conversation to go in an unintended direction. How often do we avoid our students’ questions in fear that we may not know the answers or, feed students the answers without even giving them the opportunity to ask them? In A Curious Mind, Brian Grazer states, “Curiosity is itself a form of power, and also a form of courage”. If we gave our students more opportunities to be curious, wouldn’t this lead them to empowered learning? How can we create classrooms where questions are cultivated? How can we create safe spaces where students feel empowered to not only ask the questions, but to find the answers? Curiosity lights a fire within us to to pursue our passions and chase our dreams.
Curiosity sparks ideas.
Ideas spark creativity.
Creativity sparks innovation.
In this coming year I want to spark curiosity in my own life and the lives of those I serve.
More curious conversations.
Something magical happens when curiosity is unleashed.
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.