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Is Curiosity the Key to Learning?

Click the image above to view Ramsey's full TED talk.

A 35-year-old high school chemistry teacher at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep in San Francisco was diagnosed with an aneurism that lead to open heart surgery.

This teacher, named Ramsey Musallam, learned something about teaching as he underwent surgery for his life-threatening aneurism. He found himself comforted by his surgeon’s confidence, and he asked his surgeon where he acquired this confidence.

“First, his curiosity drove him to ask hard questions about the procedure; about what worked and what didn’t work,” said Musallam.

“Second, he embraced and didn’t fear the messy process of trial and error — the inevitable process of trial and error,” Musallam continued. “And third, through intense reflection he gathered the information that he needed to design and revise the procedure. And then, with a steady hand, he saved my life.”

So what does this have to do with teaching? Musallam says that his doctor’s confidence inspired him to write down three rules of his own — rules to spark learning in his students.

Ramsey Musallam’s Three Rules to Spark Learning:
1) Rule #1: Curiosity comes first.
2) Rule #2: Embrace the mess. (Trial and error is an important part of what teachers do every day)
3) Rule #3: Practice reflection. (Teaching deserves care, reflection, and revision.)

“Questions and curiosity are magnets that draw us towards our teachers. And they transcend all technologies or buzz words in education. But if we place these technologies before student inquiry, we could be robbing ourselves of our greatest tool as teachers; our students’ questions.”

-Ramsey Masallum, high school chemistry teacher

Musallam calls other teachers to inspire learning rather than simply reciting information to students.

“...if we as educators leave behind this simple role disseminators of content and embrace a new paradigm as cultivators of curiosity and inquiry,” says Musallam, “we just might bring a little bit more meaning to their [our students’] school day.”

What Do You Think?
As a Missouri parent, have you witnessed your child’s curiosity sparked by great teachers?

Do you believe that teachers can make learning more meaningful sparking curiosity?

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