Without going into the long backstory, recently someone told me students in my class were confused and whispering to each other, seeking clarity.
They said this like it was a bad thing.
Oh, silly teacher…!
Well, it’s not.
In fact, it’s an awesome thing. A tremendous thing…dare I say….maybe one of the best things a student can experience!?
Confusion is metacognition as an expression: it means that the student or students are engaged, tracking, and wham! knows they’re lost–and when you know you’re lost you can try to find your way back. The point in question was during a challenging foundational attempt at point of view and perspective. Many of my students have had the creativity and risk-taking so drilled out of them that some couldn’t make a list of things they did in an hour without getting further instructions.
Me: Just write everything you did between 7 and 8 am.
Student: I was sleeping!
Me: Then write that down.
Student: What do I do?
Me: Write down everything you did between 7 and 8 am.
Student: Can I write that I was sleeping?
Me: Were you sleeping between 7 and 8?
Me: Then write it down.
Okay — that was a few. But the lesson added the next step of writing down was either objects or people were doing at the same time. One young man, who has a really difficult time getting anything done, wrote a delightful story about his dog from first-person dog’s point of view/perspective. This role-playing/narrative writing just clicks for some kids.
My friend John Spencer writes about confusion, and it makes a lot of sense.
The person who was questioning my practice, (and saying that students were confused) believes this:
However, schools aren’t built around confusion. We reward students for speed and accuracy (the way we average grades and set rigid deadlines) rather than nuance and confusion. We value teachers who can make learning efficient, clear, and easy-to-understand.
In fact, the word “urgency” was used many times. I know what urgency is, and it’s not “panic” or anxiety attacks — it’s a compelling reason to do something or to learn something. But sometimes that sense of urgency isn’t in every slice of a lesson — it builds, and results in great writing, even from the most reluctant and bashful of students.
Something else to consider: screentime may be doing some deep harm to our cognitive abilities. Or we just might be changing our means of communication. Please– I “urge” you to read John Spencer’s post on confusion, and listen to Parts I and II of the Ted Radio Hour Screen Time recordings.