When I was a first year teacher, I tried so hard to anticipate student questions, think them through, and prepare myself. Of course I totally failed, which is not surprising to anyone who has ever been a first year teacher. I pretty much always thought I was in over my head and I felt the rolling eyes of my skeptical students. The surprising bit for me came recently when I realized that I still struggle with anticipating questions in order to think them out before I am in front of 30+ pairs of teenage eyes. Here are three truths I have discovered:
- I will not always know the right answer or even the right way to approach a tough question.
- Most of the time, it is okay to admit to students that I don’t know the answer in order to buy the time to think about it.
- It is almost always okay to admit I was wrong and correct myself later.
No matter what grade or subject you teach, I think these truths hold up. Below are some of the toughies I’ve encountered over the last few weeks in my high school English classroom. I’d love to hear your answers as well as your difficult questions! Leave a comment below so we can continue the conversation.
1. Is this a reliable source?
- I’ve written in the past about teaching students to determine reliable online sources, but most of the time it comes to a judgment call. Every once in a while, students come for my expert opinion on sites like encyclopedia.com and I have to walk through my process and reasoning with them. This is an extremely interesting and useful thing to do with students, but on the spot, it can be super stressful for me because it is far from an exact science.
2. Can I use this image and do I need to cite it?
- One of my classes is working on an infographic project about The Great Depression in conjunction with The Grapes of Wrath and I require a works cited page with only reliable sources for the information, but when it comes to adding images the water gets muddy. Giving image credit is essential to the new age of digital citizenship, but using images for aesthetic purposes can sometimes get tricky when the images don’t have a clear original source or are found on blogs or wikis that do not pass the reliable source limits we talk about. I’m still working on my policy for this one.
3. Why did a character say, “insert quote here”?
- Most of the time I have this one handled. I’ve been teaching many of the same books for years and I’ve practically memorized several of them. And then comes the curveball. I’m standing in front a class of 30+ thinking about the agenda for the period, looking for extra scantrons, keeping up with accommodations and modifications and obligations for specific students. Then comes the question, “In chapter 9, why did Nick say he lost his Midwestern squeamishness?” And I answer quickly, waiting to talk instead of listening. Then after class, I realize I didn’t answer with the precision required. I do hate that feeling, but in full humility I try to rectify the situation when possible. I find that students respond well to my honest mistakes.
Do you ever feel this way? What questions trip you up? Do you have a good answer for my questions? Comment below.