Never Hold a Learner Back Based on What You Don’t Know

Going through university to become a teacher, my goal was to become a kindergarten teacher.  This was what I trained for and it is what I wanted to do.  Before I was even done university, I had an interview for a kindergarten opening at a school division near to where I lived, and I was ecstatic.  The interview was going great, and I felt I had the job, only to find out later that they decided to go with someone else.  Disappointed, but wanting to grow from the experience, I called them to ask for feedback, and was informed that they actually were planning to call me that day to offer me a job.  High school technology teacher.


In university, I put together a website, that went on my resume, and at the time, it made me seem like a computer expert. Honestly, I had no idea how to use technology, nor did I think it was useful.  When I called my mentor teacher to ask her advice, she told me, “A job is a job. Take it, be awesome, and you will be able to teach something else later. Just get in the system.”  Nervously I accepted, and years later, I am glad I did.

Since this course for technology with students was module based, I actually could work along students (I would try to be a little bit ahead), and they could learn from me, and I could learn from them. Sometimes I would get stuck and just say, “Does anyone know how to do this part of the program?”  Some students would know, but sometimes no one would have a clue in the room, so we would all furiously try to figure it out.  Often when a student sees that the teacher doesn’t know something, they go out of their way to find the information, and share it back.  We didn’t have to learn technology, we had to learn to learn.

Because of this experience, I have never felt uncomfortable saying things like, “I don’t know”, or “Can you help me figure this out?” Whether I am the teacher, or the student.  One of my favourite quotes attributed to Albert Einstein is the following:

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

There is no shame in not knowing something.  There is so much to know.  Yet as teachers, we need to know how to figure things out.  What a lot of people will challenge here is that I am saying that content is not important.  I am not saying that at all. It is just understanding that even the “experts” do not know everything, but to become an expert, you have to have an insatiable curiosity to grow, develop, and learn.

Yet I have seen in education that we often hold back our students based on what we don’t know.  For example, are teachers less likely to encourage students to create a video to share their learning, if the teacher doesn’t know how to make a video?  When we say to students, “I have no idea how to do this, but I am sure that many of you can figure it out”, that goes beyond engagement; it is empowerment.  When I work with educators and I am brought into a room and they show me things that I have never seen or learned, I know that there is a different level of excitement in the room because they know that their knowledge is valuable to me, not only the other way around.

Never hold a learner back based on what you don’t know.  Develop that same insatiable curiosity, wonder, and drive to learn, that we should embody as educators.


Source: George Couros