Friday, September 20, 2013

Year 4: Week 3 – “I Don’t Know”

My job as a teacher isn’t to have all the answers.

As a younger teacher I felt a need to be able to have answers for all of my students’ questions and be able to know how to deal with every situation. Yes, it is important that a teacher is an expert in a field to engender respect from his or her own students but even experts don’t know everything.

One of the things that kids across age levels can do is sense when a teachers is being dishonest and not genuine. Pretending to answer questions that you don’t know is one of the quickest ways that students feel this lack of genuine interaction.

So if you don’t know the awesome to a students’ question, don’t lie, don’t make something up, simply say “I don’t know.” If there’s time to look it up on the spot, great, if there’s not than look it up later and bring your answer to the next class period.

Over the course of the week teaching my students, I probably say, “I don’t know,” maybe once a week and up to five times a week. Sometimes students are a little shocked that I don’t now everything about music, but at the same time, I think it helps students realize that they don’t need to pretend to know everything, because clearly their teacher doesn’t and that’s okay.

The other part of admitting “I don’t know,” has to do with behavior issues. There are times when students say or do things that I don’t know how to address. Does this mean that I don’t address it when it happens? No, of course not, I point out what I saw immediately and tell them that its an issue.

A couple things happen when I tell a student who has misbehaved that I don’t know how to handle the situation. This help creates a dialogue and gives the students chance to explain themselves further and/or come up with their own consequence to their actions.

Other times saying to a student “I don’t know how to handle this right now, so I need to think it over,” is the worst punishment for a child. Then they spend the whole day and night thinking about what possible consequences they will have to face. In my experience, students’ imagination is far worse than reality. This creates a healthy amount of dread but also self-reflections. 

Be genuine, and be real in front of your students.  Model the thoughtfulness and honestly you want your kids to display.  You don't have to have a solution to a person's problem to make them feel better and you don't need to have all the answers to be a great teacher.  

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