Do I contradict myself?
Very well then . . . . I contradict myself;
I am large . . . . I contain multitudes.

Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass, 1855

I want to remember this quote and have it ready to use the first time I contradict myself this semester.  Whitman’s words give me a path to follow as I try to figure out how I can help my students deal with the contradictions and complexities of the world.  Embrace the multitudinousness!

I frequently hear teachers complain that students want clear answers, simple answers, no ambiguity, no gray.  I have to admit that the simple, the clear-cut, the straightforward yes/no answers appeal to me as well, even though I know the dangers (just look at the mess our country is in as we embrace the simplistic).  As we get older we learn that good simple answers are sometimes in short supply, but the allure remains.

So  how do I help my students accept and even embrace the messiness?  Perhaps I can work harder to consciously, visibly and regularly embrace contradiction in front of my students and let them see that I don’t immediately implode as a result. I will be honest with my own discomfort and I will make every effort to come from a place of love, not arrogance as I try to teach them that they too contain multitudes.

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