I love this phrase. It just makes me chuckle. You can’t work with third graders without appreciating all of its implications. I’ll use a student from a few years ago to help me illustrate what I mean.
“Anthony,” I’d pause here a bit before proceeding, “you need to hand in your paper.”
“Oh, ok,” would come the reply. But Anthony would sit. Just sit. Slowly a realization would dawn. I could just imagine Anthony thinking, “Yikes, she just said something!” So of course, I’d get,
It would happen all the time. Anthony was the “Wait, what?” kid. He couldn’t help it. He just processed language that way. And his, “Wait, what?” response was so honest, so real.
“Wait!” (Somebody said something, what did they say, what did they say, what did they say…)
“What?” (I really need to know what I missed because I know you want me to do something and I don’t have a CLUE as to what it is!)
Real honesty is happening here. And frustrating as it is for the recipient of “Wait, what?” it has to be a thousand times more frustrating for the person who can not process in real time. But I have to believe that awareness will carry them through. You see, Anthony was aware that he missed something. He had developed a strategy for himself. “Wait, what?” was his strategy. Without the strategy Anthony would have just muddled along, oblivious to the fact that he missed something. With support and patience and new strategies he could turn “Wait, what?” into something closer to listening. But at least he had “Wait, what?”. At least he had awareness.
So if you have an Anthony in your life (or maybe 5, 6, 7, or 8 of them!) rejoice in the “Wait, what’s”. It is evidence that our little Anthonys (or Susans or Peters or Nadines or…) will get there! Enjoy a little internal chuckle because growing up isn’t perfect nor is it typical. So just ride it out and patiently repeat yourself. Again!