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.