From Compliance to Curiosity


As I progressed in my educational career, I noticed that my students’ behavior improved. Their completion of assignments improved. Their compliance with my educational whims steadily improved. I’d give myself a self-congratulatory pat on the back. Of course this was all improving… I was becoming a better teacher.

Or was I?

In conjunction with my movement toward “veteran” status at my school, I also moved from teaching inclusion English and literacy intervention classes to eventually landing in the “cushy” instructional utopia of concurrent college composition classes. Was the improved behavior and “learning” of my students a result of my improvement as a teacher? Or was theĀ “type” of student enrolling in my classes just more educationally compliant?

I’m pretty sure that it’s the latter. The fact is that kids in upper level courses understand how to play the game of education. They know how to jump through the hoops we put before them. I don’t want to claim that teaching AP and College-enrolled students is easy. There are a whole host of other issues that may come along with those kids (helicopter parents, grade mongering, savvy academic dishonesty, feeling one’s own intellectual inadequacy with truly intellectually gifted students who may be eager to make you feel that way), but very few of these issues directly relate to discipline. That’s because, even though they may roll their eyes, talk about you behind your back, and dish out a fair amount of snark, “advanced” students are for the most part compliant.

But does that mean they’re learning? Does that mean they’re curious? I submit that I often confused compliance with curiosity. They were completing my assignments. They were doing a good job on them. But were they inspired by them? Were they challenged by them? Did my classroom make them curious?

And here’s the beauty of curious students… students can be curious whether they’re in an AP class or a remedial English class. And if they’re curious, a lot of those non-compliance issues and discipline issues that exist in the lower level classes have a way of melting away. So what’s the key to inspiring curiosity in all students?

Firstly, I think we must be curious about them as learners. Once they know we actually care about their interests and want to help them explore those interests, half the battle is won. The other half is in showing them how their curiosity, our mentoring at school, and the real world intersect. That point of intersection is the starting point to move students from compliance (or non-compliance) to curiosity.

Thanks to for the image.


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