I have been very interested in the results of a very long term study that has been going on for more than fifty years. The study is called ‘My Life’ and I am the only subject of that study. Why am I like I am? And the thing that interests me particularly at the moment: why am I so interested in science when it seems so many kids are not? I put it down to one thing: contagious passion.
I had the good fortune to be exposed, early in life, to people who loved learning and encouraged it in me. I remember walking across sand dunes with my Dad and saying to him; “There is nothing here.” “Really?” he said, and he drew a pre-metric one-yard square in the sand. We got down on our hands and knees and discovered all sorts of things: bugs and seeds and tiny lichens and all sorts of things.
That’s one thing I love about science – it helps you see things and the world becomes more wonderful. I had the great fortune to subsequently have great primary school teachers like Mr Baddeley and Miss Woodcock, and then great high school teachers like Miss Wildermoth and Mr Biddle who treated us like young scientists, so we learnt like scientists and, in my case I went on to actually become a scientist. Their contagious passion and curiosity, coupled with an environment full of books, launched me on the adventure of learning that I am still on today.
There is a saying, “Children don’t learn subjects – they learn teachers.” I don’t think it is any coincidence that the teachers who hooked me into learning the most were also the teachers who loved teaching and loved their subjects. And I think it also helped that you got the strong impression they actually liked us, too.
Teachers are important, but research shows parents are even more important in education. Does your love of learning show? A love of learning is as contagious as nits or worms and, like nits and worms, it’ll make your kids itch: itch to find out and itch to explore, an itch to know. If you are a parent develop that itch yourself, and then help them to scratch. Ask itchy like questions – “Why?” – “How?” – “What if…?” and then scratch out the answers together.