Inquiry-based learning is embedded in our National School Library Standards. As the Key Commitment of the Shared Foundation, Inquire states, “Build new knowledge by inquiring, thinking critically, identifying problems, and developing strategies for solving problems” (AASL, National School Library Standards, p. 67). Inquiry is where learning begins, and we work hard to develop it in our students. In the business world, leaders are continually searching for “what’s next.” They know that they can’t afford not to anticipate what is coming. They have to be ready to shift their business model, and sometimes we do, too.
Inquiry, or curiosity, is essential to lifelong learning. And as role models for lifelong learning, we need to model it in our daily lives. Too often we have a passing curiosity about something new and because of time pressure we don’t Explore (another Shared Foundation) it, and we lose the opportunity to “discover and innovate” (AASL, National School Library Standards, p. 103).
Curious minds keep growing, and as I and many others have said, “You are either growing or dying.” To be a successful leader you need to curious about the world around you in large part because, as I mentioned in my blog a few weeks ago you are more than your job, however much that defines you. Keep an eye on what’s happening outside the world of school librarianship, beyond education. Connect to what interests you as often as you can.
Obviously, curiosity is another quality of leadership and it is time to cultivate that mindset. The challenge is to do it when you are so busy just keeping up. Once again, the business world has faced the same issue and offers a solution.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Mara Swan explain What Happens When Leaders Lack Curiosity? Interestingly, their first observation is that those with intellectual curiosity are more open to new experiences. They are more likely not to pre-judge people. They are more tolerant and able to see beyond the narrow frame of their own perspective. They are, simply, more successful.
Tolerance for others is part of our Shared Foundation Include which has as a Key Commitment, “Demonstrates an understanding of and commitment to inclusiveness and respect for diversity in the learning community (AASL, National School Library Standards, p. 75). When you reach out to collaborate with teachers, do you choose the ones who are most like you? Or do you recognize those with different backgrounds and interests can add a deeper dimension to the learning experience – and be a model for students?
Another characteristic of curiosity is being able to deal with ambiguous situations and issues. Although your roles as a school librarian are clearly spelled out in the National School Library Standards, how this plays out in your school setting is not always so clear. Every day you are faced with people who think they know what you are to do and while they are usually right about part of your job but often doesn’t take in the whole nor see how the pieces all intersect.
One of you may have an administrator who is so enamored with technology, he or she wants you to focus on that exclusively. Another is totally committed to literacy and only wants to see that in the library. There is nothing wrong with technology in the library and certainly reading is one of our Common Beliefs. What you do is follow the directive you have been given. And then you get creative. You support your Makerspace or STEM programs with books that stimulate thinking. You read stories to the kids and have a display of nonfiction related to what you read. You blur what you were told to do so you can deliver a comprehensive library program. In doing so, you make your students curious as well.
Most of all, Chamorro-Premuzic and Swan say curious people have a “hungry mind.” They are not committed to creating a plan and sticking with it no matter what. They accept that things change and changing direction can improve the outcome. Indeed, that’s a concept we would like our students to develop around their research.
In March, I blogged on building students curiosity. We need to cultivate it as well, no matter how busy we are. To me, it seems librarians are naturally curious as a group. We need to know – and we love knowing. We can’t let the demands of our job keep us from this vital leadership quality. I hope you find lots of ways to indulge and enjoy your curiosity this summer