I grew up under the illusion that adults pretty much knew everything. That included my mom, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and of course, my teachers. No one highlighted this all-knowingness better than my dad, who had a standard response every time I asked him, “How do you know?”
“Daddies know everything.”
No longer a child, the frailty of the ruse I established years ago has crumbled. The same people who I grew up thinking knew it all actually don’t. In fact, their inability to know all – and their quests to discover, rethink, and learn – is a strength, not a weakness (as I’d have previously assumed).
The culture of school when I was young dictated that teachers knew everything and they were there to impart information. Most troubling, I think, is that, despite having had some wonderful teachers, I can’t remember a single instance until high school of one of them acknowledging openly that they didn’t know something. So a dangerous cycle was allowed to proliferate: student asks, teacher answers, student is satisfied. Repeat.
Only later in my educational career did I see teachers who saw themselves as learners, too.
Seeing a teacher as having the dual role of teacher-learner surely allowed me greater confidence to approach, question, challenge, and debate the teacher.
I am often troubled by my students’ inability to challenge me or question whether I know what I’m talking about. I am so high up on the pedestal that, in their eyes, I couldn’t possibly make a mistake or be wrong about anything.
Much more concerning than this is their parents’ even stronger beliefs in my omniscience. Parents ask questions, but they don’t challenge me. Whatever I say, they often accept.
I try to make clear to students and parents alike that there is room in our interactions for dialogue and disagreement. I try to make clear that I don’t have all the answers and that it is important we work to find them together.
I don’t know what it is, though. Seems everyone but me still thinks that teachers know everything…