I love the curiosity of younger kids. I love toddlers who ask “But why?” I don’t like that by the time they arrive at high school many have lost their enthusiasm.
In Year 7 Geography we start with ‘What is Geography?’ I have some beautifully enthusiastic boys who are keen to contribute, one in particular is quite earnest. The other 20-something students already view school as a chore. Which is sad.
What is also sad that their answer to ‘What is Geography?’ just focuses on knowledge and understanding. I spent several minutes this week saying, “but why?”, to encourage further thought and development. It was painful, but eventually we arrived at:
- To care for the world
- To solve problems like global warming and floods
- To prepare for the future
The next day I revisited the question and it still took a while to arrive at the why. When did children stop thinking about the why?
In Year 11 Society and Culture this week we discussed the differences between interactions they have at home with their family, with their friends, with people they know at school who aren’t close friends, with people in their sporting clubs and how they may be influenced by media and government. Again, I had to be persistent with asking, “But why?” Thankfully this is a class of thoughtful students. I can almost see the cogs turning in their heads as I probe for more and more and their fascination increases as they learn more and more. This is a class that will bring me joy.
Even in HSC Business Studies I was asking, “But why?” Why do businesses need to monitor, control and look for continual improvement? Why do they want to offer after-sales service? Why are stores laid out certain ways? I’m tired of students thinking that all they need to do is make comprehensive textbook summary notes to achieve well in the HSC when synthesis and problem-solving are also important. A couple of my more diligent students were reluctant to think about the type of customer service a bicycle shop could offer their customers at the point of sale and beyond, and thus wrote a single sentence response so they could tick the mental box that the task was complete. When I had the discussion with them to push their thinking further they came up with some brilliant suggestions. The trick now is to transfer that thinking into a pen and paper exam.
But why is it such a struggle to push students beyond a memorising mindset?