Curiosity Feeds the Cat

Gena Bardwell, MFA
Director, General Education
Assistant Professor of Communications
NYSCAS, Touro College

Growing up in Missouri holds many fond memories for me. During school breaks or weekends I’d often declare, “I’m Bored. Bored. Bored!” My mother, who was a guidance counselor and former teacher, would quickly remind me of how large the world was and how many awesome activities I could participate in by picking up a book.

I would squirm and pout, and she’d say, “Perhaps you are not bored, perhaps you are boring. Yes, boring, boring, boring.” That characterization didn’t set well with me. I saw myself as a clever and fun. So I asked my mother to explain what she meant.

Mother replied, “An idle mind makes you bored and reading books will expand your vocabulary and turn your boredom into brilliance.” Ah Ha! A challenge I could not resist. I began to devour books and fill in any free time with creating games, singing along with popular musicals, writing stories, and performing in plays. My parents were thrilled to see me so focused and interested. They encouraged my creativity.

The act of being curious is a recurring theme in my teaching strategy and has remained with me throughout my career. I challenge my students to approach their education with a healthy dose of openness, evaluation, investigation and discernment.

When observing a student’s restlessness or boredom, I notice that his or her actions often translate to lack of confidence, inability to stay focused, or less than stellar time management skills. Teachers may take for granted that college students retain knowledge of how to fully concentrate in a learning environment, or that they have mastered and apply good study habits. I find that it never hurts to have students share their study tips and strategies with their classmates. This encourages dialogue and an opportunity to begin conversations about the importance of active listening, analysis, reflection, note taking, and asking questions for better understanding of the course content. A classroom is at its best when an instructor is inspired by teaching and students become infused with energy, enthusiasm, and the desire to explore. Touro College is uniquely urban and diverse in terms of its student body. My mission is to meet students where they are, assess their current learning capacities, and then help elevate them to an optimal level of academic performance. I was motivated by several teachers and very fortunate to have parents who reinforced and nurtured my thirst for knowledge.

Now that I know my mother tricked me into falling in love with reading and language by challenging me to face my boredom, don’t tell my students, but I still have a few tricks up my sleeve to ignite within them a spirited passion for learning as well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s