Teaching, Curiosity, and Nursing Homes

einstein bike

Today I had the opportunity, along with two other teachers, to observe and evaluate another faculty member’s teaching.

After the class, the three of us met to discuss what we had just observed and to gather data for our written report. While I’m not at liberty to share anything about our classroom visit, one item that came up during our discussion really struck me.

We all indicated how much we enjoyed these opportunities to sit in on another teacher’s class. It was nice being on the other side of the classroom for a change, and learning something new.

During the discussion, one of the team members, an Economics professor, told us how several years into his career he decided to pursue his interest in real estate by enrolling in a series of real estate courses, and then went on to actually invest in a couple of properties. The other team member, a Management Information Systems professor, expressed her desire to take a course in Constitutional Law. And yours truly, an Accounting professor, told the story of how a few years ago he went back to community college to pick up a degree in Health and Fitness and then opened a personal training studio.

What we all shared in common was a passion for learning; perhaps that is what attracted us to academia. (It also looks like we shared an ability to get slightly off the task at hand!)

In my case, there is some evidence indicating my passion for learning. One of my top five strengths, as identified by the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment, is learner. (I plan to write about this assessment at a later date.)

I can’t imagine ever wanting to stop learning. The number of issues that I am curious about far outstrips the number of years I have left to learn about all of them. Plus, I am confident that issues I’ve never thought about, or can’t even envision right now, will likely be ones that I will want to learn about at some point in the future. (flying cars perhaps?!)

But I don’t think a love of learning is restricted to those who teach. I think we are all naturally curious, and if that curiosity starts to fade, then perhaps so does the quality of one’s life.

I’ve spent a lot of time as a visitor at nursing homes over the past few years, and it seems like there is little learning going on. I see a lot of people sitting around just watching TV or simply staring off into space. While I fully realize that a person’s condition at a nursing home may limit them from doing a great deal of things, I am sure that there are many nursing home residents who would welcome the opportunity to learn something new.

Perhaps nursing homes should post the following quote from Albert Einstein for everyone to see, residents, workers, and visitors:

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

Nursing home residents may have lost many of their talents, but as Einstein points out, it doesn’t take anything special to be curious. But being curious can be something special.

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