The second day of school I came across a student that was shuffling down the hallway at a seemingly glacial pace. His demeanor suggested that he wasn’t super thrilled to be doing whatever he was about to do. So, naturally, I asked him what was up.

He said, “Ah, nothing. Just back to being told what to do.”

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while because I’ve had many thoughts about this comment.

After talking to the student for a bit, I went back to my office and immediately pulled up his info. My gut instinct was that he is a behavior problem and would likely have a history of “being told what to do” for behavioral reasons. Wrong. Not a single referral. Ever.

Now, I’m not naïve to the fact that some students can push the limits a bit, but not do anything worth getting referred. And I know that this one student doesn’t come close to representing our entire building. That aside, this whole concept got me thinking.

Academically speaking, how does being “told what to do” impact our students?

It’s a tough question. Many of our kids simply “do school” because they’re compliant…it is how they have been raised and what school has been for them since the beginning. Our teachers and schools have made great progress in the last few years, but we must continue to develop interest, excitement, and most importantly, choice into our classrooms. Applying our content in authentic ways and in a manner that permits student interest to be incorporated has the potential to shift the paradigm of student learning to be one of intrigue and desired continued growth. We must strive to create lifelong learners.

In what ways can we loosen the reigns and move away from the “told what to do” culture?

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