Embrace the Mess!

chaos-485491_1920As I organized myself for the day, the following link emerged in my digital content:

Why We Need Controversy In Our Classrooms

In summary, the article reviews our societal issues with the lack of measured rhetoric in the public sphere. While educators might want to avoid controversy that might spill out into the classroom, it is not in our student’s nor society’s interests to ignore this challenge. Rather, it is an opportunity to guide, teach, model, and support civilized discussion when interests, passions, and beliefs collide. Be sure to review the recommendations for the article. They are excellent.

This article got me thinking about the larger issue of “mess” in our classrooms. The link describes the benefits (and necessity?) of embracing messiness in our classrooms. Many of us are trained to appreciate order and to forgo mess. I know I was, largely as a result of my own school experience. But as I proceed in my teaching career, I see where “mess” is often where more authentic learning takes place.

So I challenge us all to “Embrace the Mess”! We do that when:

  • We engage in challenging discussions, providing a voice to students, but also providing a context for productive conversation.
  • We deviate from the idea of a completely silent classroom.
  • We advocate for the success of every student.
  • When we challenge the opinions, ideas, and beliefs of a student or group, not to change their minds about an issue (although that could happen), but to allow them to think more deeply on a topic.
  • When we allow projects to lead to some physical messiness in the classroom.
  • When peace and calm is not the essential ideal, but rather conversation and collaboration.
  • When the security of “this is the way we have always done it” is exchanged for “I wonder what would happen if?”

This is not to say that there are not times when order and quiet are important. But for many of us, these values are important for us as our own work environment. They are not necessarily student-first values. In addition, some students may thrive best in a quiet, contemplative classroom. But how are we meeting the needs of many other students? And what are we doing to allow students to work with their learning, gaining insights from each other as well as from me?

So take the “Embracing the Mess” challenge. In what was are you “Embracing the Mess” today?


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