Teaching and Knowing Nothing

Socrates often opined that all he knew was that he knew nothing. This is such a good pattern for us. Some of the most frustrating teaching moments for us or for our students or children are those moments when we think we've got something all figured out.
Nov 28, 2017

Dear A—,

I've been thinking more about my last letter, and I there is so much more to say. Avoiding the snapshot mentality is such an important part of being a good teacher and parent, but it also raises a good follow-up point: the need for humility. Socrates often opined that all he knew was that he knew nothing. This is such a good pattern for us. Some of the most frustrating teaching moments for us or for our students or children are those moments when we think we've got something all figured out. We walk into those teaching moments and think, nay know, that everything is going to go perfectly. In reality, we might flounder—realizing we missed some key aspect of the lesson, and one student's question exposes our ignorance. We might overwhelm—leaving the students drowning in information with no context to internalize it. We might collapse—finding ourselves weighed down by the reality we don't know everything, and that we can't possibly teach what we need to teach. 

Here's the interesting thing. We often think of ourselves as needing to be subject matter experts (and don't get me wrong, there is a place for that) in order to teach our students or children. The reality, though, is that when our goal is make someone come alive to learning, to incite their inquisitiveness toward a thing, it is our humble ignorance and our own thirst for knowledge that helps them. Sometimes, the pouring of information from our heads into theirs overwhelms them and dampens their desire to learn. Sometimes, the asking of questions to find out what we don't know leads to them becoming aware of what they don't know, and the desire to rectify that. Humility may just be the key to teaching that we need to embrace.

May the Lord remember you in His Kingdom,

MB

Matt Bianco

Matt Bianco

Matt Bianco is a homeschooling father of three. He graduated his oldest, who now attends St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD. His second child attends Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte, NC, and his youngest is a high school junior. He is married to his altogether lovely, high school sweetheart, Patty. He is the author of  Letters to My Sons: A Humane Vision for Human Relationships.