It’s the middle of summer and a small boy is crouched by a tree stump. His eyes follow an army of ants hustling and bustling about their business. His attention is absolute, as is his concentration. He is motionless as he sits in wonder.
There is something delightful about seeing a child in the grip of curiosity like this. What keeps me awake is the scarcity of such moments in our classrooms.
A thirst for knowledge has been banished to make room for measurements, evaluations and suggestions for improvement. Children in their formative years, who have a natural tendency to get lost in their thoughts, are too often brought back to reality to ensure they meet the data-driven targets that dominate modern education.
I find it so sad that a whole generation of students is having their inquisitiveness extinguished for the sake of a quick fix of easily accessible information. Just as sad is the fact that teachers are losing their own sense of wonder – abandoned as we run for cover to escape the hailstorm of accountability.
I’ve seen too many teachers who struggle to boost pupils’ curiosity because they have none left themselves. How can we expect students to engage and flourish when they are discouraged from having enquiring minds by the very people who should be spurring them on?
We should be championing learning that begins with the word “why”. Instead, in our culture of constant measuring and valuing outcomes, dreaming and imagining and exploring are sidelined. But we forget that these are the very processes that allow moments of enlightenment to happen.
Daydreaming is not only about staring vacantly into space; it can be about fixing your mind on something particular to wonder about.
Kesia Fejcher-Akhtar is deputy headteacher of a special school
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