I’ve just finished reading the paper From Sage to Guide to Meddler by Erica McWilliam. Here’s the gist: there’s a third option in the typical Sage on the Stage vs Guide on the Side dichotomy — the Meddler in the Middle!
Here a juicy quote from Erica:
The Meddler-in-the Middle does not rush to save students from the struggle that higher order thinking involves, by giving them either the answer or the template for finding it.
This immediately reminds me of Dan Meyer’s calls to be less helpful. All kids (and notably gifted kids) need to experience productive struggle.
[Meddlers-in-the Middle] allow their students to experience the risks and confusion of authentic learning by allowing their students to stay in the grey of unresolvedness, supporting any and all attempts on the part of their students to experiment with possibilities in ways that put their ignorance to work.
So much worth pulling out! “The grey of unresolvedness”! Many gifted kids never have the pleasure of sitting in their own confusion for a bit. They often hate the feeling when it does happen later in their schooling. But, boy, is the resolution a wonderful experience. Emerging from the “grey” on your own is powerful.
I love “to experiment with possibilities… that put their ignorance to work”! A meddler helps kids acknowledge that they don’t know something and then helps them to use that ignorance.
Moreover, [meddlers-in-the-middle] do not presume that the highest achievers in the class are the best learners. Indeed, they anticipate that many of the students who are on the margins of the school culture may have more to offer in terms of creative effort.
Paying attention to the value of students “on the margins of school culture” resonates deeply with me. Five or so kids pop immediately to mind. They truly did have so much to offer, yet weren’t necessarily the top performers on any test. Give them some complexity and ambiguity and they shine.
Now, quit reading this and dig into Erica’s actual paper! There’s so much great stuff about the relative unimportance of technology, the need for all students to become confident with creativity, and three ways to approach a study of Macbeth.
Hat tip to my friend Brian Housand for introducing me to the term “Meddler in the Middle” which led me to discover this paper. Brian cites Mrs. Frizzle as a top-notch Meddler.
Also, the paper was originally found here but I’m tired of links breaking so I brought it onto my server.