Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #121
Here is a very interesting read from one of my favorite bloggers (Life of an Educator) - 10 Pieces of Advice for new Teachers.
Here are the ten pieces of advice -
3. Don’t be afraid to say, I don’t know.
I once heard (and believed and even practiced this for quite some time) this quote - “Teaching is the art of acting like you’ve known all your life what you just learned that morning.”
Now, though, I wonder why we can’t be more transparent.
I can kind of see how that quote was true 20 years ago when if the teacher didn’t know the answer, your only option was to go to the library and attempt to look up the answer (if the library had the appropriate resources that is).
But when every student has access to a device that allows them to find the answer to nearly any question, what is the use of pretending we know it all?
I don’t think there is any use.
Instead, I encourage my prospective teachers at UND to simply be active learners who aren’t afraid to show students how they acquired their knowledge or - better yet - how they deal with not knowing something.
One of the best discussions we had in College Comp 2 last year was when I asked students what they thought of E.D. Hirsch’s conceit in Cultural Literacy, that there are certain facts and dates and names that every single American should know.
I had no clue what the “right” answer was here. I simply wanted to see what my students thought.
And we had a great discussion, especially when two factions of students split into opposite sides of the issue.
One side realized the importance of memorizing basic facts that may years down the road come in vital (she referenced Steve Jobs learning calligraphy at Reed college and then years later pouring that knowledge into the first Macintosh computer).
The other side argued that there was plenty of knowledge that they already memorized to do well on the test only to forget it when they never used it ever again.
Before we knew it we were discussing how to design classes and curriculum and schools that would allow for students to better retain their knowledge.
I had no answers. In fact, I just facilitated the discussion and basically got the hell out of the way. I would throw a new idea out when the conversation was repetitive. Or I’d challenge one side to defend their stance better. Or I’d play devil’s advocate at other times.
I don’t think it’s bad to let students know that sometimes - if not often - there isn’t one right answer and that it’s fine not to know . . . as long as you’re willing to try and learn.