Friday, November 9, 2018

7 Unexpected Benefits of Curiosity


Curiosity might be good for you, and good for your students too, in ways you haven't considered. One of our core values in our school is "start with questions." We want our students to be more curious tomorrow than they are today. We want to design learning that develops curiosity. We believe in the benefits of curiosity. In fact, curiosity has been shown to contribute to academic success as much as hard work or intelligence. 

But curiosity has many benefits beyond academic success. When we are curious in a whole variety of situations, we can better come to terms with who we are, how we fit into the world, and how we can make an impact on the world around us.

So here are 7 ways curiosity can be beneficial beyond academic success...

1.  Curiosity About Feelings

We are seeing unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression among young people. But mindfulness principles are effective in addressing thoughts and feelings by leveraging curiosity, instead of angst or avoidance. Be curious about feelings in a nonjudgmental way. Recognize that feelings come and go and are neither inherently good or bad. Approach feelings with a sense of wonder, "I'm curious about why I'm feeling this way." Be curious, not furious.

2. Curiosity About Relationships

Relationships grow stronger when we show empathy. And it's necessary to be curious to develop empathy. You have to be curious about what the other person is experiencing. You have to put yourself in their shoes. When we are curious about others, it also makes them feel valued, listened to, and understood. Curiosity says, "I want to know more about you. You matter. You're interesting to me."

3. Curiosity About Perspectives

Our perspective shapes our mindset. We can view failure as something negative, or we can view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Everything that happens to me can be useful to me and for my benefit. But that requires me to be curious to consider how I might reframe in a positive way things that on the surface seem to be hardships or difficulties.

4. Curiosity About Habits

After reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I became far more curious about my habits and the habits that are common in our school. We want to create an extraordinary greeting for our students, every morning and each class period of the day. We want to make that a habit. I also want to examine my personal habits with curiosity, "Is this habit taking me where I want to go? Is this habit consistent with the path I want to be on?" Let's be curious about the habits we have in the classroom and how they impact learning.

5. Curiosity About Risk Taking

What would you do if you had no fear? What do you fear? And why do you fear these things? What is holding you back? We need to be curious about these questions and why we aren't willing to embrace positive risk taking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We cannot know what we are truly capable of accomplishing if we aren't willing to push outside our comfort zone and take risks.

6. Curiosity About How Things Work

Have you ever wondered how electricity works? Or magnets? Or gravity? Science can explain these phenomenon, at least to an extent. But they also maintain a mysterious quality. They make me curious. But as a leader, I'm also curious about what makes our school culture work the way it does. I'm curious about how student's motivation works. And I'm curious about how to facilitate positive change. There are so many examples of being curious about how things work. And sometimes, this curiosity leads to innovations and breakthroughs that make life better for everyone.

7. Curiosity About the Future

I'm curious about the future. I'm curious about what life will be like for my own kids and for my students. And, I'm curious about what educators need to be doing today to prepare students for their futures. When we are curious about the future, it helps us be more diligent in our decisions today. The choices we make today will shape the future. But we have to be curious and consider how today's decisions might lead to future challenges or opportunities. Acting today with little thought for tomorrow is unlikely to end well. A long term perspective is needed to prepare for an uncertain future. Be curious about the future.

Can you think of any other unexpected benefits of curiosity? Is you school consistently making efforts to bring out curiosity in students? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Friday, November 2, 2018

5 Questions for Deeper Reflection


Reflection is important for growth. But we have to be intentional about it. Our reflection is meaningless unless we do something with it. It has to change us. Or, it has to help us change directions. Effective people are reflective people.

Many years ago I read Dale Carnegie's incredible book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Just this last week, I decided to start reading it again. Carnegie tells the story of a bank president who for many years made it a practice to reflect at the end of each week on every appointment he had in the previous week. He would ask himself the following questions:

"What mistakes did I make that time?"

"What did I do that was right--and in what way could I have improved my performance?"

"What lessons can I learn from that experience?"

The banker attributed his great success in large part to his system:
I often found that this weekly review made me very unhappy. I was frequently astonished at my own blunders. Of course, as the years passed, these blunders became less frequent. Sometimes I was inclined to pat myself on the back a little after one of these sessions. This system of self-analysis, self-education, that continued year after year, did more for me than any other one thing I have ever attempted.
It helped me improve my ability to make decisions--and it aided me enormously in all my contacts with people. I cannot recommend it too highly. 
I also try to make it a point to consistently reflect on how things are going in my work. However, I don't have a process as systematic as what's described by the banker. Maybe that's something I should consider.

This week as I'm reflecting, I thought of a few more questions to consider...

1. How is the reluctant learner experiencing our school (or your classroom if you're a teacher)?

We may think about how our students are doing overall, but I think we need to be especially attentive to how the reluctant learner is doing. If we create an experience that engages some of our most challenging students, that same experience will also probably benefit our other students too. We're aiming to create a place where even kids who "hate school" love to learn.

2. Am I measuring with a yardstick of my own years?

When I get frustrated with some of the behaviors I see in students, I need to be reminded that they are often acting exactly like 15-year-olds are inclined to act. That doesn't mean that I don't try to influence them to rise up, but I can't get frustrated when they don't think, or act, like me. That sounds ridiculous doesn't it? But I think we all tend to get frustrated if people don't act just like we think they should.

3. Do I have a healthy level of dissatisfaction with my own performance?

At the end of the day, it's important to be content with doing my best but to also be dissatisfied with how things are. I don't want to become complacent. And I don't want to beat myself up when I make a mistake. So be content, but never be satisfied. 

4. Are there ways I'm falling into binary thinking?

Binary thinking creates false dichotomies. It's either/or. Effective leadership almost always requires a more nuanced position. We can have fun AND have high expectations. We can use technology AND develop social skills and teamwork. We can encourage student agency/inquiry AND improve achievement. It's not all or nothing.

5. What specific strategies am I using to motivate students (and teachers)?

I'm thinking about the ways I influence student and teacher motivation. Am I doing it by connecting and building relationships? Am I doing it by clearing barriers and showing support? Am I motivating students by creating a positive environment? Just what are the specific strategies I'm using to motivate? Food for thought.

So how are you developing a reflection routine? Would you benefit from having intentional reflection each week? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.
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