Let’s Not Forget: Teaching is an Art–The Intersection between Relationship, Curiosity, and Content

Recently I was contacted by Microsoft’s Anthony Salcito about doing a follow up about my work with the flipped classroom. When he contacted me I had just come off of a twitter conversation with Kwame Brown (@drkmbrown) where we discussed what good teaching was all about. I made the point, that good teaching has always been about building relationships between teachers and students. Dr. Brown pushed back and said this: “how about we acknowledge #edu is the INTERSECTION between relationship, curiosity, and content?” That tweet has rung true for me as I have thought through what I believe about education. Good teaching starts with relationship, but then we need to add curiosity and content. Watch this short video as I explain how this can and should work in today’s current educational climate. Anthony also blogged about this on his website.

So, what do you think?

20 Responses

  1. Andrew A. Kling

    Teaching is absolutely an art. I see the best learning experiences, whether inside the classroom or not — as the center of a Venn diagram of relationship, curiosity and content. From there, both the student and the educator can experience each of the three circles in whatever proportion suits them best.

  2. Laurie Heupel

    This is also applicable for adult learning, and I try to get my instructors to remember to awaken the curiosity and relationship in the adult learner. Because I think curiosity may be dulled in some folks as they get older. I always tell my instructors that our participants are “kids of all ages.”

    I am going to share this with my instructors!

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  6. kbrowne

    Begs the question: what should you do with the student who brings no curiosity and no urge to create that relationship? Dr. Walter Williams has made the assertion that, “Saying you will leave no child behind means you are willing to leave every child behind.” He’s talking about how to improve schools by taking eliminating the notion that an education is an entitlement. It has value and should be valued, but saying every child must participate and we’ll keep giving them 2nd, 3rd, etc. chances simply devalues the offer. He argues that the best way to improve outcomes and reclaim failing school is to remove those who disrupt classrooms and destroy the safe environments our students should enjoy, in order to bring out those qualities you espouse.
    Thoughts, Jon?

    1. I am very hesitant to blame our education systems failures on our kids. Though some students are certainly a challenge I have seen too many at risk kids turn around. We need to tap into their curiosity to help them become who they were meant to be. This is where the value of a good teacher with some autonomy is so powerful.

  7. How would you define content?
    Another important aspect of education is helping students become something. For example helping a student learn to finish something they start, be more organized, or other skills that will help them be successful in their future.

    1. I see content as the curriculum. And you have a really good point. Our job as educators is to also teach things like resilience and tenacity. I think much of that comes through relationship. I’m not sure my three categories are all inclusive, and my main point is that we have I Ed emphasized content at the expense of what constitutes a good education. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Michele Burke

    Hey Jon. At the NCTM conference I saw Dan Meyer speak and he referred to the curiosity factor as “Perplexity”. You introduce a perplexing thought to the students that engages them in the content that you wish to cover. You use that perplexing idea to peak their curiosity and help the students understand the relevance of the content they are learning. A teacher that has developed a good relationship with their students will find the best “perplexing” thought to engage the majority of their students and drive the students to be persistent in finding a solution or answer.
    Teaching is an art…building relationships with your students helps you design the perplexing questions that peak students curiosity which leads to the relevance of the content; engaging your students in the learning process.

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  10. Michelle Lilje

    What a profound truth that was spoken! I agree completely that teachers need to find a balance between relationship, content, and curiosity. As you spoke, I could think of examples of classrooms where the balance was off and could visualize the problems that arise from that imbalance. I do agree that they need to be balanced in an overall way, meaning some days might be more about content; some about curiosity. Other days might focus on relationship especially if a student is going through some kind of crisis. I think you were speaking from almost every teacher’s heart when you spoke of the dark cloud hanging over many educators right now. There is so much pressure to focus on content and curriculum. I feel that pressure when I am planning, grading, assessing, and even when venting with other teachers. However, when I am in my classroom actually teaching, I am revived with the reminder that all learning can not be objectively measured and that while they may not always “matter” on paper, the moments that occur in my classroom matter to me and to my students. I think your thoughts will encourage many teachers; I know they encouraged me!

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