Via the Connectivism Blog
This week has been an exercise in what not to do when you don’t know the answer, or at least when you don’t know it well enough to effectively work with it in class.
One of my groups are reviewing the passive voice for a test. Up until last Tuesday, the sessions have been pretty tame and well…predictable. (read: we strictly followed the book’s example constructions.) Then I made the silly mistake of closing the text book and asking students to write their own passive voice sentences. As students began reading out their answers, I felt like I had been blindfolded and then shoved into the deep end of a pool. The nice "safe" book answers were quickly kicked around, beaten up, and thrown mercilessly into the garbage.
I normally welcome such things, but this day something different happened. My students brought me into unknown regions. I was clueless. Their sentence constructions caught me off guard. Some of them were clear and easy to identify as passive voice, but others seemed to defy my attempts at locking them down correctly.
I fumbled. I tossed my team the ball, but wasn’t prepared for how they returned it, and instead of having a nicely run review session, I found myself slipping about on an icy, unknown playing feild - trying desperatly to gain control of the ball again.
Thankfully, the fumble occurred a few minutes before the end of the class, so I was able to semi gracefully pause the play until the next session. But the moment was difficult. I didn’t do what I should have done, and admit to my uncertainty. That would have been the best response, and one that I know my students would have happily accepted. But I didn’t do that. I fumbled and tumbled. For some strange reason, I felt afraid to admit the obvious: "I don’t know." (As an aside, the really silly part of this was that I’m pretty sure my students caught on to my fumble, eventhough I tried to pretend it didn’t happen.) So I paused the play and breathlessly scrambled to learn the answer.
It took two days of research, but I finally came to a better understanding of my subject. I worked hard and found the answers I needed, just in time for my class thismorning. This time, I started honestly. I told them what had happened during the last class, and admitted to not knowing the answer, and needed to get a better understanding of it on my own.
Nothing bad happened. There was no laughter. No eyeball rolling. There was no punishment of any kind. On the contrary, there was fascinated silence. A few heads nodded, and there were one or two friendly smiles. It was ok for me not to know the answer. The class went brilliantly after that. I was able to share what I had learned over the last few days of personal study (cus it was for me just as much as it was for my students) and well, it just worked.
There were a few questions, but as we worked through a few of their "unexpected" sentences from the previous class, we, and I include myself, began to see a much clearer picture of passive voice. Now I ask myself, and you dear reader, what was more valuable here: getting the right answer, or the passionate journey to get there? My two cents is that it was the journey. I echo gsiemens:
"School should be a safe place that allows a learner to step outside of the destination view of learning and embrace the journey view. It’s ok to not know. It’s heathy to accept confusion as part of the learning process. Often, for myself at least, I learn the most when I’m in the greatest level of confusion. It is at this point that I’m actively trying to create connections between varying viewpoints and perspectives. I’m thinking critically of new information, I’m seeking to build a neural network that represents the physical/conceptual elements I’m encountering…while contrasting those elements with previous experiences and established conceptions." (gsiemens, 2006)