Stop. Please.

We had a brief staff meeting today, and a few comments from one staff member caught my attention more than anything else.  Yesterday, he took part in training and was surprised at how quickly he became frustrated when everyone else in the room was comfortable with some of the tasks and information that he wasn’t familiar with.  They were easily able to move on while he was stuck, wondering how to begin.

He was a victim of “the curse of knowledge,” as Edutopia writer Christopher Reddy describes it.  

Knowledge is a curse.
 Knowing things isn’t bad itself, but it causes unhealthy assumptions — such as forgetting how hard it was to learn those things in the first place. It’s called the Curse of Knowledge. ~ Christopher Reddy

How often does this happen in my classroom?  Am I missing opportunities to help my students with situations that prevent them from moving forward?



This semester, I want to share this blog post with my students.  Maybe we can think of a few ways that they can hit the brakes, stop for a moment & we can move forward together.

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13 Responses to Stop. Please.

  1. lisamnoble says:

    Colleen: I think you must have been in my classroom at the end of Friday afternoon. One of my classes hit a wall in terms of a fairly big chunk of the class feeling this way. I didn’t respond very well. Today, we’re going to start by looking at your blog, and work on some ways for people to feel okay asking questions, or for help, without feeling like it’s their problem. I think it really helps for them to hear that teachers go through this, too.

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  3. adunsiger says:

    I kind of wonder if the desire in classrooms and staff PD sessions to “teach everyone as a full group,” produces this problem. Would small group, more targeted mini-lessons result in this less often? I’m curious to hear what your class and Lisa Nobles’ think.


  4. lisamnoble says:

    Ooh, Aviva, I think you’re right on with this. We tried what I thought was a simple activity at a staff meeting on Monday, and I could feel 2/3 of the room going “stop, please” in their heads. So I did, and only tackled one of the 3 things I wanted to intro. People who had the background to support others did, and that made it easier, too.

    A handful of my classes looked at this post this week, to try and figure out where we could go next to build a space where “stop. Please. I don’t understand” would be an okay thing to say. I shared my own experiences with PD as a second-language teacher. In my board, all PD for FSL teachers is done entirely in French – instruction, interaction, everything. If you’re an extrovert like me who doesn’t care if you’re making 42 kajillion mistakes when you speak, that’s not too bad, but if you’re not, and you’re a Core French teacher who’s not overwhelmingly confident in your second language, it’s a nightmare. I admitted to my students that I understand 2/3 to 3/4 of what the facilitator is saying, and that drops as the day goes on. I regularly have to ask for things to be repeated. My students were really interested in “the curse of knowledge” and we thought about what we could do to be patient with each other in our learning in French class.

    • adunsiger says:

      Thanks for sharing this story, Lisa! For a variety of reasons, this is the approach that we’ve used this year. In fact, we never teach anything to the full class. This was a very big adjustment for me at first, but wow, has it made a difference for our students. I think that I finally feel as though kids are getting what they need to move to the next level. I wish that I tried something like this before now. Interested in hearing what you and your students decide to do.


  5. lisamnoble says:

    I’m really intrigued by this, and how I could help my students continue to build their vocabulary – I tend to full-class teach a fair amount, in terms of starting conversations, and when we’re adding big chunks of new vocab. I know that some French teachers are using tools like EduQuest and FrenchQuest to differentiate, but I know that sometimes reduces spontaneous interaction. hmmmm.

    • adunsiger says:

      It’s a hard one, as you’re teaching a different language. The question becomes, what could students do meaningfully on their own? How will you manage the small groups? I don’t know the French curriculum enough, but do students have enough oral language to use it in a Makerspace or even a play-based program? What might that look like given your students and needs? How might you scaffold for needier students? We use some visuals, open-ended activities, and choices when needed. Would any of this work? Curious to hear what you do.


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  9. noelinel says:

    When I had the privilege to be a literacy consultant, an amazing French teacher shared some of her ways to make French engaging and accessible. For example, she’d draw a house on the board which she would then use to show ‘door’, ‘walking through’, ‘going into’ the house, ‘going upstairs’, ‘going downstairs’, etc. Then she’d have groups, each with a house drawing, share with each other. This gave her the opportunity as she was walking around to support them when there were stops of puzzlement. If I’m misremembering, Faten Hanna, @508_9173, please correct me.

    • lisamnoble says:

      thanks so much. I do like the strategy where we learn a new piece of vocab and then teach it to each other, and need to remember sometimes that it works really well. I know exactly what she was teaching (that would be the verbs that use ‘etre” in the past tense) 🙂

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