“Uncomfortable, but not paralyzed”

I gave my digital history class a “pep talk” at the end of last week to address the concerns some of them had about feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about exactly what I wanted them to do this semester.

I explained that I wanted them to be uncertain, that I wanted them to be shaken out of their normal writing and researching experience, that it was in those conditions that they were most likely to learn. However, I explained that I wanted them to not be so overwhelmed that they felt like they couldn’t do anything. I told them I wanted them to be “uncomfortable, but not paralyzed.” It sounded funny after I said it (no faculty quote t-shirts, please) but it’s a good summary of the environment I hope to create in this class. [Though comfortable is the ultimate goal.]

It came up again today in class as the students looked blankly when they were asked if they had any questions. So I asked, “uncomfortable or paralyzed?” They laughed and we moved forward.

I’m still concerned that some people are closer to paralyzed than uncomfortable, but I think they’re willing to ask questions when they’re stuck.

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  1. Wow, two posts in one month! Is this the beginning of more blogging from you? One could hope.

    Right now some people might be closer to paralyzed than uncomfortable, but I think as the semester continues as we get more adventurous people will be more comfortable into venturing into the unknown.

    I’m also contemplating creating t-shirts for this class and “Uncomfortable, but not paralyzed” is definitely going on it. : )

  2. It definitely sounds like a productive conversation is underway.

    I always like to run with the idea and model of ‘play’ as a means to pitch (read: ditch) rote models of the classroom task or a routine that has fallen into the rut of the overly-familiar.

    Play offers a ‘curious interplay between order and disorder’ (Henricks 2006: 14) that makes for a very productive scene. It invokes both individual and cooperative effort, experimentation, and an embrace of a venture into the unknown. Chaos can be constructive… and a joy.

  3. I’m currently hanging in limbo between the two, but I think, like Shannon said, I’ll get much closer to uncomfortable by the end of the semester. Hey, maybe I’ll even hit that “comfortable” mark.

    I feel as though this could be one of the greatest running jokes the history department has ever seen.

  4. Pingback: Elementary, My Dear, or Far From It | First Day Feelings

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