Experimenting on the Stairs

teddy stairsI’m not a mom who spends a lot of time trying to squash my kids’ spirits.

And as an educator, my greatest challenge is the lack of natural curiosity amongst my students who range in age from 18-60. Students almost never demonstrate a strong desire to learn for its own sake – just so they can know – they don’t get excited about new ideas or skills. In my exactly six years of teaching undergraduates, I can think of a handful of folks (if there’s more than one per course that’s a lot) who seem to put forth any initiative towards the garnering of knowledge. (And simply enrolling for classes does not prove this aforementioned initiative. Many of my students behave as though all they have to do is show up and it’s my job to ensure their education, that they just have to sit in the chair and enlightenment will seep in. A good example is when they come across a word they don’t recognize. No one – NO ONE – looks it up. They’ll either ask the professor or, more likely, ignore it, even though they have smart phones equipped with dictionaries and google.)

So that explains why I let my 20 month old experiment on the stairs. (Disclaimer: I stand a few feet away saying “Got it? Got it? Got it?” until he (if he) realizes the risk is too great. Then he extends his hand and says “Help. Help. Help. Help.”)

Am I doing it right? I dunno. I’m trying to keep his spirit alive – the independence, the curiosity, the exploration. My hope is that these qualities, if left unfettered, will lead to an adult who knows he can do it himself, an adult who will use his resources, an adult who can successfully assess risk just a touch beyond his actual capabilities — the adult qualities I want in my classrooms and at my parties.

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Mel Kozakiewicz a professor, editor, writer, and mother of two.

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