As I read Michelle E. Jordan and Reuben R. McDaniel, Jr.’s (2014) article, “Managing Uncertainty During Collaborative Problem Solving in Elementary School Teams: The Role of Peer Influence in Robotics Engineering Activity, I began to reflect on how I have dealt with uncertainty from kindergarten until now, a current doctoral student. Jordan and McDaniel (2014) define uncertainty as “an individual’s subjective experience of doubting, being unsure, or wondering about how the future will unfold, what the present means, or how to interpret the past.”
All of this brought me back to the 5th grade, when I had attended 5 different elementary schools! Yes, FIVE! Two in Houston and 3 in Phoenix. I spent kindergarten through 4th grade in the same school so making the transition to a new school, in a new state, terrified me. But, because I did not have a say in the matter, I walked into my new 5th grade class. It was definitely a culture shock. I thought there was no way for sure that I would ever fit in…we were so different. Jordan and McDaniel (2014) stated, “social interaction is a primary means of expressing uncertainty and can also be a source of uncertainty.”
I remember all of the students listening to my every word. I did not understand why, but they just kept asking me question after question about where I came from. But, then a boy asked me, “why do you talk so funny?” Me? I talked funny? Are you kidding me? Have you heard what YOU sound like? And, that is the first time I remember feeling out of place.
From there, it just got worse. My neighbor downstairs asked me if I wanted to go play with her in the bayou and catch crawdads. I didn’t know what a bayou or a crawdad was…but, I didn’t say that I didn’t know. I just said, “sure.” As Jordan and McDaniel (2014) would say, my uncertainty stemmed from my “partial knowledge and understanding” (I knew that it was going to involve “playing”) and “the negotiation of social roles” (I just wanted to make a new friend). When we got to the bayou, I was confused. Then, my neighbor skidded down the side of it and began running her hands through the water. She picked up some creature and popped it into a jar. Yep, that was the crawdad. Talk about weird! But, you know what? After a few weeks of refusing to step foot in that bayou and try and catch crawdads it became my new favorite thing to do! Go figure! After reading Jordan and McDaniel (2014), it appears that I had received some support from my peer and was able to learn from her that it was the “cool” thing to do.
Then came the biggest culture shock of them all…line dancing! I didn’t have the slightest idea of what it was and this was actually a part of our school day. I remember watching from the sidelines and I did not have the slightest idea what they were doing. I even asked my teacher if I had to learn how to line dance. And, I got a very firm, “yes.” I stumbled my way through line dancing and, eventually, I actually became good at it.
And, then, WHAM!, I was hit with another foreign task…SQUARE dancing! Except this was different…I had to dance with someone else…a boy! Not only was I faced with “content uncertainty,” but “relational uncertainty” as well (Jordan & McDaniel, 2014). Like line dancing, I hadn’t the slightest idea what it was, and I remember wondering why would anyone want to dance in a square? On top of that, I had never danced with anyone before. I tried to avoid participating for a couple of days and asked if I could just watch. Once I understood the lingo, I was able to start to make a connection with the content. I practiced what I remembered at home. But, once I began participating, it was clear that I had no idea what I was doing. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I remember some kids making fun of me because the girl from Arizona didn’t know how to square dance. I remember some of the boys saying that they didn’t want to be my partner because I couldn’t dance. The unsupportive responses (Jordan & McDaniel, 2014). But, I also remember the boys and girls who volunteered to be my partner. I remember them walking me through every move of every song until I got the hang of it. The supportive responses (Jordan & McDaniel, 2014). And, eventually, I did, but it definitely wasn’t my cup of tea.
Later that year, we finally moved back to Arizona because my mom couldn’t take being in Texas anymore. Thank goodness! Looking back on it now, while I was back in familiar territory, I ended up attending three different schools in two very different areas of town. I wish I remembered more about what I experienced in those schools, but it was one crazy school year and everything is a bit hazy. But, I will never forget learning about bayous, crawdads, line dancing and square dancing!
Jordan, M.E. and R.R. McDaniel, Jr. (2014). Managing uncertainty during collaborative problem solving in elementary school teams: The role of peer influence in robotics engineering activity. The Journal of the Learning Sciences. (00)0, p. 1-47.
Latest posts by Tanya Suydam (see all)
- Alternative Education for American Indian Students – June 21, 2014
- Losing Language – June 17, 2014
- Policing of Native Bodies and Minds – June 14, 2014
- The Uncertainty of a New Environment – June 10, 2014
- Constructing Meaning About Violence, School and Community – June 6, 2014