Embracing Wonder

More WonderFor the past few years, my students and I have begun the year with a See, Think, Wonder thinking routine exploring the classroom, making inferences about what we find there, and wondering about our learning in the year ahead. It’s a good first day activity to get students moving around, asking questions, and thinking visibly. The boys have always enjoyed it, and I’ve always left at the end of the first day feeling energized for the next. Nevertheless, I’m planning to abandon the lesson this year.

Two weeks ago I attended the Clark County Connected Conference in Jeffersonville, Indiana. As I reflected on the day, I realized I attended several great sessions, but Dean Shareski’s keynote “Whatever Happened to Joy?” resonated with me in a particularly powerful way. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. If you have time, you should watch it.

Near the end of his keynote, Dean shared several ways we can cultivate joy. I could certainly embrace more joy, so I’ve been revisiting my notes and experimenting with his methods. One way he suggested is simply to wonder. So, in the days leading up to a new school year I’m trying to cultivate my sense of wonder. I’m reading and researching. I’m taking the time to look at things closely, and as I sit here dreaming about a new year and looking at new class lists, I’m beginning to wonder about each boy. I wonder what he’s like, and I wonder what he likes. I wonder what he wonders–not about 6th grade reading, our classroom, or me. But, what does he wonder about life? About what is he curious? What puzzles him about the world? What inspires him and holds his interest? What does he most want to learn?

I’m not sure what the first day of school will look like. I have no brilliant lesson plan, and I haven’t figured out what we’ll do. But I want to start–on the very first day–uncovering and  embracing their wonder, and hopefully, together we can cultivate our sense of awe.

Dean shared the video below in his keynote, and I think I’ve watched it at least 15 times over the past two weeks. “We have a responsibility to awe.” Indeed.

Awe by Shots of Awe

7 comments

  1. wmchamberlain

    The thing is, the whole backbone of school is routine. We have bells that lead us from period to period, we give tests on Fridays and every Wednesday is chicken patty day. Being comfortable at school, as the man in the video implies, means embracing the routine. I often chafe under the routine and will do things under my control to change it up (but I find kids embrace the routine often even more than adults.)

    • Philip

      I think you make a valid point, William. School is steeped in routine, which is both good and bad (Isn’t everything?!) Routines make us feel safe, but they also make us numb to the amazing things happening around us. What I took from the video is my need to fight letting the routine numb me. I want my students to fight it too. I want to look at things closely and see how intricate they are and be amazed by them. I want to notice how amazing each of my students is. I’m not sure how to do it, but that’s what I want.

      And by the way, I wouldn’t eat those Wednesday chicken patties! 🙂

      • wmchamberlain

        I actually made it all of last year without eating cafeteria food. 🙂 I agree that not only allowing students time to find something to wonder at/about but also giving them time to share it with others is valuable. My question is how can we retrain them to do so when it has been trained out? I spend years retraining kids away from a lot of routines at school and it is painful. As my dad likes to say. “Don’t try to teach a pig to sing, it wastes your time and annoys the pig.” 🙁

  2. Justin Greene

    Your lesson from previous years sounded pretty interesting to me. I am curious as to what you are planning to do instead. Please keep us posted.

    • Philip

      Thanks, Justin. I’m still not sure (our first full day will be on the 20th), but I will write about it as I go. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. Dean Shareski

    Thanks Phillip for the notes and shout out. It’s become apparent to me that while wonder seems like the obvious notion to build learning around that we can’t be reminded of this enough. I continue to find that video and the message of wonder something that I need as much as those I share it with. The structure of school as well as the pace and numbness of the world we live in can so easily distract us for recognizing beauty, awe and wonder that is often right in front of us.

    Here’s hoping you’ll keep this as a major learning tenet of your classroom.

    • Philip

      Thanks, Dean. My students have tons of choice in my reader’s workshop, but I really want to stoke the embers of their sense of wonder this year. I’m hoping by getting to know what they wonder about I can spur them to be amazed by the world around them. I also want to model that sense of amazement.