Friday, January 17, 2014
Over Christmas, my nephew took me completely off guard when he asked, “What happens when you split an atom?” In true science teacher fashion, I asked him a series of questions about atoms before I made him figure out his own answer, but it got me thinking about wonder. Curiosity. Children are always so full of wonder – asking countless questions and absorbing everything about the world. Watching the rain form droplets on the car window, I had no idea that one day I’d be teaching kids about hydrogen bonds. Scientists search for answers to their questions but some days I have trouble even getting my students to ask.
Early this week I just wanted to shake my students and ask, “Why aren’t you curious? Don’t you wonder about these things? Don’t you care?” Some days it’s like I’m tricking them into learning…cajoling them into understanding in spite of themselves.
When I was about to hit my breaking point and tell them that their teenager brains were broken and some day they would care about things again, I saw that spark of wonder. It started yesterday during our final exam when I handed out a new book (Microterrors) to some students who had finished early. As they started reading about viruses transmitted through cannibalism and intercourse and sneezing, they began to wonder. They whispered for me to come over to help pronounce “encephalitis” and they tried to secretly show their neighbor the pages of herpes viruses.
On the days I need it most, my students surprise me with their curiosity and their vulnerability. They surprise me every day…and the days of good surprises are happening more and more.