The Opposite of Curiosity | Hooray for Monday

January 30, 2023

By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President of Center for Inspired Teaching

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.

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Each week at our Inspired Teaching staff meeting, we begin with a brief exercise. This past week, each of us responded to the question: “What are you curious about?” The question connects directly with Inspired Teaching’s work to promote the kind of teaching that fuels – instead of stifles – curiosity. 

Here are some of our answers…

  • What did people do before they could Google things? What would I do now if I couldn’t turn to the internet every time I’m curious about something – who won the Oscar for best film in 2020, where stars go during the day, whether there’s gluten in barley?

  • What impact is the internet having on curiosity?

  • How will my son’s experiment to see if plants can grow with 24-hour sunlight turn out?

  • What is behind the egg crisis in the US?

  • How can I learn to be a better painter?

As often happens for me, this warm-up exercise ended up sticking in my mind for days afterward and led to new questions – particularly this one: If curiosity in the classroom leads us to approach things from a place of wonder and interest, what does the opposite look like?





An unexpected challenge arises. “Well this is surprising. I wonder what our options might be?” “Oh no! What are we going to do?” (PANIC)
Students are struggling to follow directions. “Can you tell me more about what’s confusing? Is there something I might do differently to make them clearer?” “My directions are not unclear! You’re just a bad listener!” (DEFENSIVENESS)
Most of the class does poorly on a summative Algebra assessment. “What might be going on that is making it so hard for this group of students to grasp basic algebra concepts? What can I try that might make things go differently?” “I guess this year’s seventh period algebra class just doesn’t want to learn!” (JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS)

We all have moments where we live in the non-curious side of a challenge, but this reflection made me notice how different it feels to intentionally approach challenges with curiosity. Last Thursday artist and activist Helanius J. Wilkins spoke to students in our Speak Truth program about his curiosity-fueled work to bridge divides in communities in all 50 states. In preparation for this talk, we asked him what role curiosity plays in his work. He said, “Curiosity is everything. Period. If I’m not curious I’m not moving. The goal is to be a student for life, the minute we decide we don’t want to learn anymore that’s when life sort of ends.” (You can listen to our full podcast interview here.)

Another antonym for curiosity, then, is apathy. And in our role as teachers, that’s something we’re actively teaching against. So this week, see what happens if you ask your students what I asked my colleagues.

  • What are they curious about?
  • What do they think the opposite of curiosity looks like?

May the discussion highlight for them, and for you, what is exciting about being, as Helanius put it, a student for life.

Activities that Foster Curiosity

Random Walk: Movement and Learning Combined!

This activity challenges students to get curious about concepts collaboratively in a physical way and completely without words.

Finding Yourself on the Line

Among the many vital things we can learn in school, one of the most valuable for our life beyond the classroom is how our own minds work and how to become more aware of our own response to the world around us.

Interesting, Important, Useful

A key to building mutual respect in your classroom is recognizing and appreciating what your students find important. That's an act of curiosity on your part and a way of sparking theirs! 

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