Friday, May 8, 2015

Creativity and Compliance with Calvin

This Calvin and Hobbes comic came to me via social media today...


I love Calvin and Hobbes. Funny? Sure. But also thought-provoking. There are so many things this one brings up for me...

Is this what school is like for students today?

Is this what school is like for teachers today?

Do we expect students to simply comply?

Do we really want students to just be little robots who don't respond personally and creatively?

Do we make our classrooms "for the kids?"

Would students be more likely to get along with what we are doing if they felt like the classroom was more "for them?"

Are kids more likely to act out and rebel if they don't see any connection between things they care about and things happening in their classroom?

How quick are teachers to just send kids to the principal rather than making discipline a learning opportunity as well?

Is it true that no one appreciates theater anymore?

Maybe more arts education opportunities in general would make school more "for the kids?"

Do we really want kids to develop creativity?

Or do we really want compliance?

What questions would you add?


  1. I'm reading this during an extra 20 minutes of Genius Hour time. I cannot stand walking past a classroom where students are sitting quietly, looking forward, and the teacher is talking......for a long period of time. I love this environment right at this moment. Two girls on the floor w/iPads, deciding what to put in their presentation. One girl at the student station, creating another "question of the day" for class, another writing a blog post. Two boys gathered around another, as he shows them his new website - with 235 views. Two students watching our Vimily ads for our Genius Hour presentations, deciding which they'd like to see in June. Three girls in the corner, helping each other with the Spotify app. Four boys in a dark corner of the room, figuring out what (appropriate) music to use for their video montage of Kuponk successes. Another boy sitting quietly putting in much effort drawing another sports logo. Two more girls having a heated discussion about what to include on their website and what to not "clutter" it with. Chatter throughout the room, with my choice (today) of music in the background. THIS is learning. Cooperation, trying different things, struggling, communicating, debating, sharing, smiling... I'm not doing the work. THEY are. And they're enjoying it!

    Another question - do we want students to be HAPPY in school? Do we want them to want to come to school?


    1. Joy, I would LOVE to visit your classroom! You paint a picture of active, engaged, (dare I say it?) JOYFUL learning taking place!

      I love your question as well. Who every said school needs to feel like prison anyway?

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I find that focusing on three Rs (respect, responsibility, relationship) instead of compliance is much more conducive to learning/growth, and that the negative behaviours we seek to avoid are reduced more effectively than when we aim at compliance. When we aim higher than compliance we tend to get something much richer: cooperation, partnership, relationship, community.

    The best moments in my practice are often the moments when something has been done that is worth an apology; especially when I am the one who should apologize. Certainly, when a student causes some form of hurt or damage, the soil is fertile for instruction, forgiveness, and restoration, but when I am the one who has done wrong, the opportunity is even greater. A teacher apologizing, admitting mistakes, seeking forgiveness, and sharing plans for renewed relationship is powerful modelling. It wasn't easy for me to admit mistakes at first (teachers aren't supposed to be wrong, right?!), but the results have been so buoyant and positive that now I actively look for chances to apologize, and see mistakes and social friction in classroom communities as opportunities. Can much deep learning and quality relationship-building be happening if there isn't any friction? Compliance is at best a surface appearance/behaviour.

    So, do we want compliance? Certainly not as a goal. Perhaps as a byproduct of a trusting relationship, but at that point has compliance not morphed into cooperation?

    I like both of Joy's questions. Attendance (and happiness) is closely connected to meaningful work guided by meaningful purpose done within the context of meaningful relationships. Who wouldn't happily learn in such an environment?

    I might ask: Do we really want to hear what students (and parents) have to say about learning? Are we really willing to share authority in areas of learning, assessment, and administration? Are we really making decisions based on what is best for student growth? Decisions about schedules, lunches, building design, busses, classroom activities and materials?

    Thanks as always for spurring on our thinking, Dave.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Scott. I love your emphasis on relationships--I totally agree!

      And I'm thinking about my own question of whether I want student to comply. I am right with you on this one: "compliance" isn't the goal in my classroom, really. But I *do* want my students to comply--even at the college level--with my expectations for their behavior and learning. But is compliance the GOAL? No. I want my classroom to be a place where students want to be, but one where they know real learning will be happening. They will have to work hard, they will have to think hard, they will have the chance to stretch, and learn, and do things that they perhaps didn't know they could do.

      And this happens, as you say, in an environment where they are in right relationships, where they know I care about them and their learning. I want them--and me!--to be able to take joy in the work of learning!

      Thanks for helping me refine my own thinking on this, my friend!
      Peace to you,