When I trained as a teacher, back in the dark ages, one of my most elderly and, yes, crusty lecturers gave us this piece of advice: “If the buggers [a.k.a. delightful young people with enquiring minds] ask you a question and you don’t know the answer, never admit it: they can smell weakness, and you’ll be dead before half-term.” This obvious love of teaching could explain why he was no longer in the school classroom, and thankfully I ignored this advice (along with his suggestion that actually planning lessons removed all the spontaneity and fun from teaching).
For in reality, both during my short period as a school-teacher (English for the hormonals, 11-18, since you ask) and throughout my subsequent years as an AML trainer, I have found the phrase “I don’t know – does anyone else?” one of the most useful in my vocabulary. This week, for instance, I have been training in Guernsey (foggy but with excellent food, since you ask), and through admitting my ignorance on at least three occasions and asking for contributions, I have deepened my own understanding of the local AML requirements and vulnerabilities. This is rewarding for me, as I like to know as much as I can about “my” subject, but – more crucially – it means that I become a better teacher. The more I learn, the more I can pass on. So never be afraid to admit that you don’t know something – chances are, you soon will.
Top advice, I certainly agree with the “admitting my ignorance” approach (well, on most occasions anyway!). Some of the best learning points can arise when someone has the courage or conviction to say that they aren’t clear about a particular aspect and others will often then chime in with similar reservations.
When adding in the popular use of jargon in so many subject areas (and AML certainly has it’s fair share), you can often find that people don’t have the confidence to say that they don’t know what a particular in-phrase actually means.
Let’s keep asking those “daft” questions, they are usually the best ones.
Thankfully I seem to have a natural gift for sniffing out the daft question, so I am well-placed for my job! As you say, it’s often the jargon that trips people up – I must remember that more often, and make sure that I always check for understanding. Thanks for the reminder.
Best wishes from Sue
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