Letter of the Week: Start Curious. Stay Curious. Read On.
Letter of the Week: Start Curious. Stay Curious. Read On.

By now you all know Brentwood's motto: Start Curious. Stay Curious. Go Anywhere. Curiosity is something we believe in deeply. In this regard, it was great to delve into this month's Harvard Business Review, where the focus is on curiosity in the work environment. And while there is too much from the articles in terms of research and insights to cover in this one letter, there are a few points I want to highlight in the context of a Brentwood education, our roles as parents and educators, and why we have curiosity as the centerpiece of our motto.

"When our curiosity is triggered, we think more deeply and rationally about decisions and come up with more-creative solutions...we view tough situations more creatively." This conclusion is in perfect alignment with the first part of our Statement of Purpose: Think critically and creatively. As educators, we know that once we spark curiosity in our students they are on the path to insight, complex problem-solving, and meaning in their lives. This, of course, aligns with the third part of our Statement of Purpose: Shape a future with meaning.

"When our curiosity is triggered, we are less likely to fall prey to confirmation bias (looking for information that supports our beliefs rather than for evidence suggesting we are wrong) and to stereotyping people (making broad judgments, such that women or minorities don't make good leaders). Curiosity has these positive effects because it leads us to generate alternatives." This awareness is as strong an endorsement of our core value of Diversity as one can imagine. Real curiosity insists that we see what is really there, not what we want to be there. Furthermore, for adolescents in particular, curiosity offers freedom from the unnecessary judgment of self and others.

The question that fuels curiosity more than any other is the genuine, "Why?" Once students embrace this perspective they are no longer passive in their education. They are instead actively engaged. At Brentwood, therefore, it is no surprise as one visits classrooms to hear teachers repeatedly asking students the Why question in a variety of iterations: Why do you think the main character responded that way? Why do you think the chemicals reacted the way they did? Why do you think the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides? The point is that the active search for responses to these Why questions leads to meaningful discovery, or as Simon Sinek is fond of saying, "Knowing your why helps you act with purpose."

While there is much more to this series of articles—and I do encourage you to read them for yourself—there is one more piece I want to highlight, as it will make us all better educators and parents. "It may seem intuitive, but my research shows that we often prefer to talk rather than to listen with curiosity." To combat this tendency, Pixar created a technique called "plussing." "Instead of rejecting a sketch, for example, a director might find a starting point by saying, 'I like Woody's eyes, and what if we ....?' This technique allows people to remain curious, listen actively, respect the ideas of others, and contribute their own [ideas]."

I am not sure about you, but I'm going to do my best over the next couple of days to talk less, listen with more curiosity, and try to "plus" off of some of my family's ideas and thoughts. Wishing you the same.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Dr. Mike


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