Urgent Evoke

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Coming to terms with Uncertainty in our Literature Class.

This could well be the title of my IB English class.
As a literature teacher, I take advantage of the wealth of texts at my fingertips to probe this very concept.
It is my priority.
On my classroom wall there is a poster that reads:

EMBRACE AMBIGUITY.
The world is grey and that's okay.

This is a difficult concept for teenagers to grasp. But an important one.

"There’s tremendous uncertainty about a lot of the science of influenza viruses and there’s therefore a lot of disagreement among scientists, mainly on the topics about which we’re uncertain."
(http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/Microsites/NiemanGuideToCoveringPandemicFlu/CrisisCommunication/ComingToTermsWithUncertainty.aspx#understanding)

Information like this, as outlined in the Nieman Guide can be applied to pretty much all aspects of life. There is a tremendous uncertainty about a lot of things. Period. And what better way to model and inspire confidence in accepting this, than through literature?

Over the past four years, I have been lucky enough to work with nearly 200 hundred teenagers in my IB cla****. I have witnessed their initial discomfort upon finishing a novel that does not have a conventional plot line. We have had discussions about the frustrations presented when the 'conclusion' of the novel is that it has none; it is left wide open for us to interpret. I have listened to groups analyse, share and try to reach a consensus on a conclusive interpretation (this consensus is never actually reached, by the way).
Yes, students initially struggle to come to terms with uncertainty. But through these exercises, during these discussions, as a result of this sharing, there is an awakening.
Ambiguity presents us with a myriad of possibilities. Ambiguity gives us a voice. Ambiguity breeds ingenuity...
And when this spark is ignited, it is hard to extinguish.
This new understanding inspires trust, confidence and creativity.
These are pre requisites for the future that lies ahead.
When, one day, we are faced with a global pandemic, a new war or a critical energy crisis, these are strengths that we are all going to need to possess.


Recommended reads for coming to terms with uncertainty:

The Sand Child, Tahar Ben Jelloun
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
Death and the Maiden, Ariel Dorfman
Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett
Kiss of the Spider Woman, Manuel Puig


"Any Questions?" (last line of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale)

Views: 108

Comment by Turil Cronburg on May 7, 2010 at 5:46am
The world is sometimes gray, and sometimes it's a rainbow! And that's ok. :-)
Comment by A.V.Koshy on May 7, 2010 at 6:18am
i'm a literature teacher too
ib and cie are challenging courses
i like this post
good to meet you rebecca
Comment by Rebecca Gillman on May 7, 2010 at 8:17am
A.V- I am glad that you liked this post- what a gift it is to be a literature teacher, isn't it? I feel so lucky to be able to spend my days sharing my passions with young minds, and earn a living from it too.

And Turil- thanks for your comment. Let me explain further: My grey is all of the colours of the rainbow... grey is merely a short cut to saying 'can't be read in black and white', not grey as in gloomy... grey as in not clearly defined, open to interpretation, infinite perspectives and understandings...
Comment by Julio Cesar Corona Ortega on May 7, 2010 at 8:32am
Perhaps I like this post. Or maybe I just enjoyed the prose. Whatever the case may or may not be, you get +1 Spark.

Unless I change my mind at a later time and you get +1 Creativity. We shall see.
Comment by A.V.Koshy on May 7, 2010 at 8:37am
yes i love literature
and teaching it
opens minds up like nothing else
im in univ though but i taught two school boards too

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