Freedom to Wonder | Hooray For Monday

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. Prefer audio? Listen to the Hooray For Monday podcast! Available on your favorite platforms here.

October 9, 2023

By Jenna Fournel, Director of Teaching and Learning

Last week was Banned Books Week. This quote from the American Library Association sums up the climate teachers are working in right now:

“ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom ALA documented 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in 2022, the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago. The unparalleled number of reported book challenges in 2022 nearly doubles the 729 book challenges reported in 2021. Of the record 2,571 unique titles targeted for censorship, most were by or about LGBTQIA+ persons and Black, Indigenous, and people of color.”


Monday, October 9 is the federal holiday known both as Indigenous People’s Day and Columbus Day, depending on where your school is located. And where your school is located has a lot to do with what students get to learn about this holiday; it may also determine which books students can and cannot read. As teachers, we want our students to engage with curiosity when they seek to learn about their world; to do that, they need access to all kinds of information. When you think about your school right now, how much freedom do your students have to wonder?

If you’ve been a teacher for five years or more, regardless of where you work, you’ve seen a lot of social change, and you’ve seen that social change impact what and how you teach. Maybe you and your students were empowered to dig deep and discover truths that you yourself never learned as a student in school. Or, maybe you were curious to reconsider content you’ve taught for a while. Maybe your school supports your curiosity. Maybe it doesn’t.

I am struck by how the debates about what and how to teach tend to be about adult discomfort. The discomfort with things adults don’t understand often overrides a willingness to see what happens when students are allowed to explore their own curiosity.

Last year, high school students in Inspired Teaching’s Speak Truth program planned and led discussions on everything from the role artificial intelligence will play in the future of school, to standards teens should set for relationships, to the impact opioids are having on young people and what adults should and shouldn’t do about it. In every discussion, the observing adults in the room learned something new and the students grew in their own understanding. These powerful, student-led conversations are continuing this year.

The reality is, there is very little we can do to keep books or information away from students given the wide expanse and easy availability of the entire internet. If we don’t offer students practice dissecting fact from fiction and learning that the simple story is most often not the complete story — the long-term implications of that sort of uneducated society at scale are truly sobering.

At Inspired Teaching, we are in awe of the teachers who are fighting to keep curiosity at the center of instruction and we continue to support you in the struggle. Thank you for all you do each day to ensure schools are places where students are free to wonder.

For additional insights, resources, and information on Inspired Teaching teacher and youth programming, subscribe to the Hooray For Monday newsletter!

Hooray For Monday is an award-winning weekly publication by Center for Inspired Teaching, an independent nonprofit organization that invests in and supports teachers. Inspired Teaching provides transformative, improvisation-based professional learning for teachers that is 100% engaging – intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Our mission is to create radical change in the school experience – away from compliance and toward authentic engagement.

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