Why You Shouldn’t Look for Holes in a Curious Student’s Exploration

You’ll be tasked with teaching others in life. As time keeps ticking, you’ll gradually morph from being a consistent student to an occasional teacher. You’ll then become the consistent teacher and occasional student. Though the wise are students until the day they die, they see value in teaching others what they’ve learned.

Your students will have their interests, opinions, and quirks. Some students will be hard to get to focus while others will come to class focused and tuned in. Some of them will make noises when you expect them to be quiet and there will be those who simply skip class

The students this article is about are the curious, explorative, learners. These individuals are never satisfied with the lesson’s boundaries as you set them. They always want to know what will be in store for tomorrow, and what is written on the next page of their textbook. These will be your better students.

Since you won’t have time to fulfill their curiosity in full, they’ll begin exploring on their own.

They’ll improvise on the piano prior to your arrival at the lesson. They’ll try solving the more complicated math problems you planned on getting to next week. They’ll explore and they’ll be sure to make mistakes.

Communicating with, and correcting, such students is an often overlooked, but critical, aspect of teaching.

This article aims to warn you against evaluating your students’ curious pursuits with the same rigorous standards as you would lead your structured lessons with. 


The Act of Exploration Is Fragile, and Is Seldom Focused on Peak Performance

An act of criticizing a piano student’s act of improvising a melody prior to your arrival will communicate your misunderstanding of their motivations. That student would not have been focusing on getting every chord right as much as they would be focused on feeling comfortable in the space they’ve ventured into.

Such a student would be walking on unsteady ground; with their primary focus being the development of a sense of comfort and control. They will be seeing, doing, and feeling things for the first time.

In perceiving their intellectual explorations as serious attempts at performing, you’ll feel a desire to point out their mistakes and hope they improve on them.

Their interpretation of your corrections, however, will do more harm than good. They’ll perceive you to be acting too rigidly while they venture through their unstructured and fragile exploratory state. Your student will feel misunderstood in their intentions and will want to exclaim, “I was just having fun!”

Your well meaning critiques will not find a receptive audience. You will not only waste your time and energy trying to correct someone’s desire to fulfill their curiosity, but you may damage their habit of willfully exploring into the long term.


The Shackles of Hesitating to Explore Our Curiosities

Following a series of corrections to their attempts to explore their curiosity, your students will tend to associate the sensitive feeling of stepping outside the lesson’s boundaries with being disciplined. They won’t feel free in their efforts to independently explore. They’ll feel as if the correction is always on its way and about to strike.

That dreadful anticipation will breed hesitation on their part. Your efforts to help by correcting would have resulted in a blockade of curious exploration.

The encouragement of curious exploration seems to be more important than correcting your students’ efforts to explore early on. Though they may make mistakes whilst venturing outside of their intellectual comfort zone, their development of comfort in the act of doing so is what matters more.

By encouraging your students to be comfortable exploring, you’ll do your part to foster a beneficial habit of learning. Trusting your structured lessons to fill in the holes without addressing their curious pursuits outright will result in their ventures outside of their comfort zone to be improved.


Be There Only When They Say They Need You

The aim of your structured, scheduled, lessons should thereby be to arm your student to be more successful in the independent curious pursuits they embark on. Rather than correcting their acts of exploring outright, teach them lessons which they can carry with them and implement independently.

An important thing you should remember is the absolute necessity of protecting and fostering a student’s comfort in exploring by themselves. Allow your students to improvise, to flip through the pages, and to solve problems you haven’t gotten to in your structured lessons.

It’s difficult to ignore any mistakes they make while they independently explore, but them feeling successful at exploring is what matters most. Their explorations are not structured, and you’re not responsible in leading them through those bouts of following curiosity.

If they ask questions or express difficulty in overcoming a barrier, be there and use that opportunity to guide. However, don’t hover, poke, and prod while they freely explore. Your student’s confidence in their ability to learn will remain high if you encourage an independent and seemingly successful bout of independent exploration without correcting on every step.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.