Should School Be Confusing?

It’s quite often that as a teacher I need to break down complex ideas into lessons that are easy to understand, and also easy to ingest… Meaning listening to it, and actually learning it enough to know how to apply it. I don’t want my classes to come off as confusing. Sometimes, like in my classes, business ideas are a little more complex, and certainly encompass a larger picture. We’re used to only thinking about ourselves. It’s easier and we all do it. We think of OUR project. Of OUR homework. In the ERP Academy, for example, of OUR business venture. I try to keep the logic behind this “big picture” ideas, but also make them simple enough to understand – and essentially know how to apply them.

 

But what if making lessons too simple is the complete opposite of what I should be doing?

 

Does a little bit of confusion actually help make things more interesting?

 

I’m going to think back to when I was in high school. I enjoyed being challenged. There were 2 teachers that become THE teachers of my life. Interestingly enough they were best friends. They were my 8th nd 9th grade language arts teachers. Mrs. Lourdes Arenas, and Mr. Lee Krenz. Their classes were not difficult. That wasn’t why I liked them. It was how they treated us – all of us. Walking into their classes I knew I’d sit, listen, do what I was told, and well… try my very best. I did not want to study English nor literature in college. Their classes were those classes that I would stay up for to make sure I even memorized, yes memorized, vocabulary words. Just in case the next day I happened to be asked, “what is the definition for irony.” Being asked meant everyone stopping, looking at you, and listening if you got it right.

 

Why do I mention this? Because we all have those challenging classes, courses, jobs, moments that stretch us just a little more than we are used to and even if we don’t realize it then and there – they will help us in leaps and bounds. Eventually we reap the benefits of those difficult moments.

 

I see myself treating my students as college students sometimes. I let them take charge of their learning. I help create a structure for them, and we build on the final result after their four years of high school in every lesson. I do think that making things “confusing” (in a good way) is beneficial. It helps us think more. It helps us be better analysts, better strategists, better problem solvers, better thinkers, and sharper at almost anything we are faced with. As teachers, we kinda know that you will use and apply the things you learn at some point, in some way, in your life. We know because we’ve been doing that longer than you have. There is a method to the madness!

 

So I think we should build our goals around challenges. I build my teaching goals around challenges. We need to take a closer look at what we’re doing, and how we’re planning lessons to help students reach their goals. Many schools and teachers build the measure of competency based on speed, efficiency, and accuracy. So we set rigid deadlines, and use that as a measure of a student’s ability to apply the knowledge we are attempting to transfer to them via the classes we teach.

 

Let me give the example of videos. We show videos that are easy to understand, and students feel they can complete the sentences of the video itself. That’s wonderful, but have they learned what they need to know? We need to remember and keep in mind the end goal. The end goal is for students to learn the material and be able to apply it. That being said, are we sometimes doing a disservice to students when we show them a Khan Academy video, and let them work, instead of actually having a dialogue?

 

Here are some things I think can help this situation…

 

  1. Let’s give students an open sandbox. By that I mean let’s give them room to think, speak, and ask questions of their own. Are we trying to create little machines, or thought leaders?
  2. We need to let mistakes happen! This is for teachers to apply, and students as well. We learn by trying, and sometimes by making mistakes! Mistakes do not equal being wrong. They equal learning how to make something better.
  3. Teachers need to be open to students asking questions. If they ask questions is obviously because they want to know.
  4. Teachers should not shy away from confusing material, and we should not make it so simple to understand that it’s boring. Possibly one of the most prevalent problems we have in schools and classes is that the class is boring. Students don’t feel they are learning anything, and that’s because they think the class is boring. As a teacher, if I don’t have to think critically, and actually solve a problem, and put forth my efforts and expertise to reach the final conclusion, I’d get bored very easily as well.

 

So, in conclusion… the word “confusion” has a bad reputation, but it all depends how you look at it. It really is all in the way you perceive these “confusing” lessons, and finding what you can really get out of them. There is a method to the madness! School’s not meant to be so difficult that you fail. School’s meant to be a learning experience where you turn work into fun and gain the tools you need to accomplish your dreams.

 

So yeah… confusing is actually a good thing.