deeper knowledge

I think too many teachers treat knowledge as a pool when actually, it’s an ocean.

They set themselves up as the be-all and end-all, the source of knowledge in the classroom, and expect and desire students to show them that they, the students have absorbed all the knowledge they, the teachers provide, and reflect it back. They see students as mirrors, as imitators, as people who will confirm their own self-image.

I don’t want my students to expect that I know everything they need to know.

I don’t want them to think I remember everything I’ve ever studied. I don’t want them to think I have all the insights.

Instead, I want them to understand that teaching isn’t about providing knowledge, it’s about providing guidance to knowledge, and self-confidence in navigating that knowledge, and energy and interest to pursue more knowledge.

I don’t want them to see me as a guru- I’d rather they see me as a guide.

Instead of them thinking that I’m going to teach them “all about” World War One, or European imperialism, or the Cold War, I want them to feel that there’s never enough time to learn all there is to know.

I want them to be baffled and awed by how much knowledge there is, and humbled by the little they ‘know’– but also excited, engaged, and proud that they have ways to think about and access it.

Instead of me showing them a pool and saying, “Here’s everything,” I want to show them an ocean, and hold their hand as they explore a little corner of it.

I’ll point out what I think is important or interesting, but also hear their questions about what lies beyond, or beneath.

I’ll accompany them as they fully explore a little inlet, but not block them from seeing or wanting to explore the areas beyond it, the vastness that surrounds.

I won’t lie to them and say “Oh yes, we know it all; this knowledge is set and done; you are now prepared for anything.”

I’d rather say, “We did this much, and it’s not a lot- but hopefully you have practicing in thinking, and interest in exploring, and some slight understanding of what more you can see next.”

About Allison Poirot

ALLI POIROT is currently teaching IB History, Modern World History, and Psychology at Asociación Escuelas Lincoln in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She taught previously at King's Academy in Madaba, Jordan, and at public and charter schools in and around Boston, Massachusetts. She has a deep interest in progressive pedagogy and believes in fostering student autonomy and empowerment.
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