“Curiosity will conquer fear more than bravery will.” James Stephens, Novelist and Poet
Facing the future is anxious work for many of our students. They may duck the question, or freeze, or give a carefully crafted glib response designed to stop us asking ‘What do you want to do?’
Have you ever been into a huge ice cream shop, faced with a wall of colourful flavours with enticing names, stood there for a while in indecision before deciding, ‘It’s all too much, I’ll have vanilla.’
A good vanilla can be very good, but what if you never even LOOKED at all the other options?
Curiosity is the scoop – or the sauce… Whatever the metaphor needs, curiosity unlocks exploration. And exploration opens hope, making it clear that the future is an exciting place to go.
So how do we unlock curiosity, that fabulous un-freezing agent?
Teachers know about curiosity. In a classroom wired for curiosity, we model what curiosity looks like. We plan our lessons for it, encourage it, let student curiosity lead, and we build in rewards for curiosity.
We make them move, make them laugh, make it personal.
But sometimes we drop these tactics when facing careers education. Maybe it feels too serious. Maybe a negative rhetoric has built up about the future (‘I need to succeed.’ ‘I mustn’t fail.’ ‘Robots will take all the jobs.’ – you know the score.) Maybe we left it a bit late and course selections are putting pressure on.
Our job is to help students explore the widest possible futures, learn about their own unique self, and work out some possible ways of putting these two things together.
Three simple tactics can help:
Set off in the spirit of play Set off on a journey together. Exploring the wide world of work will take your students everywhere, from the tip-top of the highest mountain, to the deepest smelly sewer tunnel. Let them go anywhere, let them find the weirdest job, the grossest job, play-act jobs, make up names and stories and fictional future identities. They’re trying adult roles on for size.
Forget the answer Many students, a few teachers, and many parents, have a vested idea about what career is best. The trouble is, these are often limited. Focus on making room for curiosity to extend or reshape entrenched expectations. A new answer may emerge, or the reasons for the existing one may become clearer.
Start early Did that curiosity wired classroom sound like Primary school to you? That’s no coincidence. The OECD undertook data analysis of over half a million teenagers’ aspirations and found them narrow and limited. As a result of these findings (which you can read here), they add their voice to the many calling for exploration and conversations about the future to begin earlier, in the upper primary years. Start early, integrate it across learning areas, talk about futures often.
Keep curiosity in your eyeline as an education professional. Shape careers education experiences that are personal yet safe, engaging but enticing, and above all, open to exploration.
Curious at Korowa
Grace Kinch, BECOME’s Education Consultant, was recently invited to represent BECOME to parents and students at Korowa Anglican Girls’ School in Melbourne. The school is running the BECOME program again this year, and their year 7-12 parent-student Careers Expo was a part of the kick-off.
Here’s what she wrote:
Student curiosity is a powerful thing! I bore witness to this, when I returned to a school after the COVID disruptions to showcase BECOME.
As I watched students and parents explore the App, it was heartening to see the excitement and interest in ‘what’s out there! The mantra, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ is forefront in my mind when students use the BECOME.ME Web App. A group of girls even came back three times to use it.
What this highlighted is that careers education is powerful when we engage students’ curiosity and desire to shape possibilities in a supportive environment, with their teachers who know them best.