Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered: Betwixt and Between

“I’m wild again, beguiled again
A simpering, whimpering child again
Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I…”

Oh to be wild again, beguiled again, a child again… bothered, bewildered – the state when ambiguity, uncertainty takes over… Drinking brandy, falling in and out of love, full of foolish charms, not quite asleep… Schroedinger’s catnap… a place where you might be “burned a lot” might be where you “learned a lot… So hard to bear…”

True difficulty, the desirable sublime moment in teaching and learning when the full horror of not knowing what is happening to one has taken over… The student is but betwixt. The teacher has bewitched them. The student, the outsider thrown from the world they knew towards a world they don’t; in slow motion falling with full gothic horror into the dark abyss. And teacher, you threw them, pushed them, deliberately, delicately and sometimes violently… And you enjoy it. They hate you for it… for now…

This liminal state is essential for learning.

Liminality, drawn from the Latin: ‘līmen’ – ‘threshold’ a place between two states – this place of purgatory. In trivial terms the space between grammar and rhetoric… and the state of being betwixt – this dialectical state where voices confuse and confound. Here the structure of grammar is either unmade or is not yet understood and the child is taken from certainty into disorder in order to ensure assimilation into a world of informed free thought where they will send out probes into the global village. How to be initiated into the conversation of mankind? We need our teacher. The teacher as kindly benefactor, as well as an odious Shaman taking the class out into the night where the students dance in the dark… but not with Springsteen…

The process of education as coming of age – from putting away childish things to the donning of the robes of adulthood is also cut from this cloth: The grammar of the child’s own life is slowly, deliberately, upset (whether in a child or teacher centred way it is still upset…) ch-ch-ch changed and through that process we are lads insane, falling many times to the floor…

Dazed and confused…

So don’t talk of grit or resilience… teacher… you upset the applecart, don’t blame the child. You took them there, you ensured they stared into the abyss… you have to deal with it; it is part of the ritual.

5 thoughts on “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered: Betwixt and Between

  1. Hello Martin – sorry to burst the atmosphere – I wanted to put this in poetry, but it just ain’t coming…!
    So what’s the take-home from this?
    …That liminal states are uncomfortable, but essential phases of real learning…
    …That because we’ve put them in this position, pupils are more likely to want to wriggle back rather than push forward, even if they have grit…
    …That therefore, our role as guides through the ordeal is essential – cajoling, extorting, mesmerising them, and somehow, if it can but be achieved, enabling them to experience delight in the whole experience, if they can just taste the contagion from our own…?

    I quite like this explanation, even if it’s just my own fancy.

    Liked by 1 person

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