I’ve posted here and elsewhere the news that I’m returning to the classroom this year. I’m very excited about this, and have been doing a lot of reflection on my previous experiences, on what I want to change, and on teaching styles in general.
Because of this reflection, whenever I’m in a room with other educators, I’m always reflecting on their comments and actions, as well. One of the things that has come up recently happens to be one of my pet peeves when it comes to educators, so I thought I’d write about it here. I’m writing in response to teachers who decide to remove content from their curriculum based on the fact that they think they don’t know enough about it to teach it.
Do you have all the answers?
I certainly hope not. How dull would a classroom be that didn’t give students room to discover? How much creativity and how many thinking skills can we kill as educators who want our students to ingest information and regurgitate it at test time? I’ve experienced teachers who were not willing to say “I don’t know” in answer to a student’s question — teachers who would rather not introduce a topic if they themselves know little about it. Why is it that these teachers feel a need to be the single source of information in their classroom? When did we, as a whole, decide that teaching was all about being the expert in the classroom?
Of course, we have to be able to seem as though we know our subject well enough to teach it, but won’t my students learn more from me by witnessing my willingness to reveal my shortcomings? The sciences I teach have vast amounts of information — even genius’ like Einstein would never know all of it. Pretending to know it all makes me an imposter. Won’t my students retain what they learn longer if they have the opportunity to teach me or others in their classroom about what they discover?
If I refuse to let students know the vast amount of information that is out there for them to discover, aren’t I cheating them of opportunities to stretch their own minds and create? Who am I to rob them of the challenge of expanding their own knowledge and exploring the topics that interest them?
My first-day-of-school speech always contains this sentence: “I want you to question everything I tell you”. Great scientists did not come from children who blindly believed everything they were told. They came from those who said “I don’t believe the world is flat” or “I don’t believe Earth is the center of the universe”. My goal as a teacher is to give my students just enough knowledge to run with it. Then I stand back and watch the incredible directions they go. I would never be able to come up with those directions on my own.
Do you have all the answers? . . . Let them run with it!