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Busting the ‘superhuman’ myth: It is okay not to know everything

I so vividly remember walking in to teach my ninth Standard English class and one of the students asked me the spelling of a word I did not know. I was so embarrassed because as a teacher I thought I was supposed to know all the answers. I had joined the profession as a thanksgiving to a teacher who had changed my life and loved every bit of it till that one afternoon. I fumbled a bit, and than basically admitted to the class I did not know the spelling to a hushed giggling sound from the back where this child sat. Over the years, I have thought of that particular afternoon and come to realise that as a teacher we are made to believe that we are super human beings with vast storage of knowledge and elevate ourselves to that position by buying into that myth. But it is just not true. We are humans first and teachers later. We have limitations like everyone else. Not that we should not try to overcome them but sometimes the odds are stacked up against us? How am I or anyone else supposed to know how to spell all 1,025,109.8 words in the English language?”
There is nothing shameful about not knowing, what is shameful is not making the effort to learn. Also there are benefits to not know. Your students need to see you as a life long learner. Just because you have a teaching degree does not mean your learning has to stop. Knowledge is ever expanding and for us to keep up we need to constantly upgrade our knowledge base. It also shows your flaws. You admitting to them reflects the value of self-confidence you have in your abilities and you being comfortable in your skin. Your projecting that you are not perfect teaches them to be more accepting of their flaws. Another benefit is that it pushes them to look at other resources to enhance their learning experience. In my not knowing the spelling I asked them to open the dictionary and look it up.

Our students are with us on this mega adventure of learning and it is absolutely fine if we do not have the nitty-gritty details of the road map. It helps in holding hands and admitting that we are also learning as we go through this journey together. For when we admit we are human and flawed we give them permission to be the same without judging them.

The author is Dr. Nalini Taneja – chief enough officer at Aham I Am Enough Training Group. You can reach her at [email protected].

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