By Susan Jerrell, TOFT Founder
Remember the waffle commercial with the tagline: Let go of my EGGO? I challenge you with a new twist: Let go of your EGO.
None of us have all the answers, and quite honestly, no one expects you to. That includes fellow teachers, administrators, and yes, even your students. So there, some of the pressure is off of you right now. The next step is to not expect it of yourself.
Here’s why you should let go of your ego:
It’s exhausting when you try to know everything because it’s not possible. I’ve known teachers who are asked a question they do not know the answer to who say, “We will talk about that tomorrow.” They then spend time researching to answer the question the next day.
In reality, they are the only one who learns from that. Instead, a better idea is to respond with, “That’s a very good question. I don’t know the answer, but I am sure that if all of you research that tonight we can talk about it tomorrow.”
Kids love to be challenged to learn something the teacher doesn’t know, and think about how much they are learning in the process- research skills, how to answer questions for themselves, that everyone has things to learn, that their questions matter, and yes, the answer to the question itself.
There are other experts
There are expert teachers all around you. I have taught workshops on early newspaper design, magazine design, editorial writing and graphic design tips for other teachers’ projects because I was the building expert in that subject. Sure the teachers could have done a ton of research, but why should they when I was just down the hall?
My building did this quite frequently. It lets kids meet and mingle with other teachers, and it provides a different voice for students to listen to. Trust me, no matter how dynamic a teacher you are, your students still like to hear a different voice now and then.
Kids are experts too
There are expert students. Don’t forget the skills and knowledge that your students have. I frequently used former students as experts on various topics.
For example, I was fortunate to have two students who were experts in PhotoShop. You better believe that I used them for workshops with my beginning journalism students for three years. I even had them make a couple of tutorial videos to use.
Other students respected and listened to them, and it lets them know if those students could do it, so could they. It also built the confidence of the teaching students. All around it was a win for everyone!
It alienates others
A big ego makes you less accessible. Colleagues and students alike are intimidated by people who think they know everything because it makes us feel inferior. We are afraid that we will be looked down upon for not knowing something.
Students appreciate honesty, and they are also very perceptive. If you don’t know something and try to act like you do, they will figure it out pretty quickly, especially high school students. They are on the lookout for imposters.
So give yourself a break
Too often we are afraid to admit we don’t know how to do something. It takes a certain confidence to say, “I don’t know.”
However, learning that no one expects you to know everything relieves some of that burden. Give yourself a break and let go of your ego.