Idolatry of Certainty

As experienced educators, there are many things we know we know- we know about the mechanics of teaching, the pedagogy of learning, what motivates and de-motivates our students, why they behave as they do.  We know we are effective teachers.

An exercise I have used countless times in workshops is to post the following sentence in front of the group:  “Finished files are the result of years of scientific experience combined with the wisdom of many years.”  I then ask the audience to count the number of times the letter f appears in the sentence.  Despite the number of college degrees earned in the room, and the combined number of years of educational experiences, most will only count 3, rather than 6, which is the correct answer.  It is humbling to suggest that the next time we think we know all the answers to all the challenges that are facing our students, we need to remember that we sometimes struggle to count F’s in a sentence.

Effective educators build relationships before they build knowledge.  They nurture trust, realizing that they are guiding impressionable minds on what can be an epic 180 day journey, exploring imaginations.  They realize that they are teaching people, not content.

As I watch our kids enter the building each morning, I catch myself wondering what they are thinking about. What are they looking forward to?

Do they feel needed?

Do they know they matter?

Do they wake up looking forward to the day ahead?

Or do they know that it will be another You Tube video in one class, more worksheets in a couple of other classes, more PowerPoints…just like yesterday, and just like tomorrow?

Can they create?

Can they connect?

Can they discover something hidden in their imaginations?

Are we meeting their social needs as well as their academic needs?

Many of us are certain that we are.  After all, we are expecienced educators.  We “know” these things.  One of the lessons learned at church today is that anyone who claims to know anything does not have the necessare knowledge.

I describe the experienced educator as the one who has made, and learned from, the most mistakes.  Not the one who is the most certain.  The only thing I claim to be certain of is that the future will be different from  the present.  And I trust that the most effective of us are looking to the future rather than living in the present.

May God Bless us with enought foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

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