When I think about the question What do I want to fuel my students? a large list of responses instantly comes to my mind. However, when I reflect on my large list of responses a bit more, there are two overarching themes that seem to focus again and again — curiosity and the sense of giving to the greater good.
Curiosity as Fuel
The learning process can be one giant “mind-blow” experience after another, and it should be. When students are allowed to ask questions that interest them then they find purpose in what they are doing. Deep learning happens when students have freedom to explore what interests them. The learning that is driven by interest and curiosity is the type of learning that sticks with students beyond the next summative assessment. It will stick with them because they own the learning. It will stick with them because they will feel that they can do something with their learning. It will stick with them because it is relevant and meaningful to them and their lives. When students find purpose in what they are doing then they move from complacent learning to engaged learning?. They can then turn that engagement into action.
I hope that I can help students fuel their passion for curiosity. Life is interesting when we ask questions. Questioning and curiosity allows us to make connections that we did not know existed. When a high school student discovers that they are capable of making connections in their thinking, their world is transformed. They go from passive recipients of information and turn into economists, scientists, and mathematicians. When curiosity is sparked, students realize that they can construct meaning to the questions that they crave answers to. When students are fueled by their own curiosity learning and schooling becomes something that they do for themselves, not something that is done to them.
When curiosity acts as a fuel for student learning, then learning becomes the students.
Sense of Contributing to Something Bigger as Fuel
I want students to have opportunities to be part of something bigger — something beyond themselves and their personal goals. I want students to be fueled by the understanding that by working for the good of everyone they are in fact working for their own good.
By looking beyond themselves, student motivations can change. By being part of something that is bigger than themselves students can see how their actions can contribute to a greater good. When they feel that they are part of something that will bring benefit to many students they can begin to dream. They will be able to dream about the difference they can make with both their ideas and their actions. When students are fueled by a sense of a greater good they will be able to identify needs in their communities and rally groups of their peers to work together to make a difference. In the short run this mentality can create a strong sense of community in our schools. Students will see that by working together to better a community they can make a difference. They will see that their actions matter and while it may not equate to a grade it provides them with different and still very valuable learning experiences. In the long run, when students are fueled by a sense of contributing to something bigger, they will be more inclined to act in altruistic ways. They will not be enticed by short term gains at the expense of others. They will see how the collective good far outweighs wins for individuals.
Putting them Together
I choose these two “fuels” because I think that when put together they can create a powerful tool for a positive global future. When students are able to be curious about the world they can ask the questions that matter. When students see themselves as part of a greater community, their curiosity will focus on asking questions that will make everyone better. I would hope that these two fuels combined will equip students to create solutions that can be used by all, not just by those that can pay for it.