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Ask a Teacher: Do You Get Upset When Students Know Things You Don't?

Ask a Teacher: Do You Get Upset When Students Know Things You Don't?

By Mr. Toche

Q: Do you get upset when students know things you don't?

A: Of course not.

I mean, of course students will know things I don't. For example, I don't watch much TV, get to the movies very often, or keep up with popular music. Yes, I'm old. It's not that I demean people who do enjoy those things; I just spend my leisure time doing other things. So, naturally, people who do care about popular mass media know lots of things about that field that I simply have no clue about.

And then there are lots of other things my students know that I don't; family information, technical details about their hobbies, and any number of other facts. Think about it—every one of you knows thousands of things that your teachers don't. Go ahead and take a second to feel smug about that.

Now that you're done with the smugness, I imagine the person who asked this question intended to ask about classroom incidents. Well, in that case, the answer is still "no." It doesn't happen terribly often, but, occasionally, someone knows things I don't. Or I'll make a mistake without realizing it. These things happen. I don't and can't know everything. I can't imagine taking it personally.

But, based on this question, I imagine that some of you have seen teachers that have been less than pleased at similar situations, and may have argued from their positions of authority. I encountered similar problems when I was a student. Well, if that happens, you have a couple of options. You can either quietly accept that the teacher will "win"  based on his or her authority, even if you've got the facts on your side. Yeah, it's not right, but it's a part of life.

The other option, and the one which I usually took as a student in similar situations, is to insist that you're right, and damn the man. Uh, well, from personal experience, I can tell you: Don't do that. Sure, you're technically correct, but, as unfair as it is, angering a teacher over a minor incident such as this simply isn't worth it. Maybe your teacher is professional enough not to be petty about such an incident, but maybe he or she isn't. If it's the latter case, you've just created a grudge with a petty human being; I imagine you've dealt with petty people holding grudges before. Well, when someone is in an authority position, that problem is amplified tremendously.

So please, for your own sake, don't do the same stubborn arguing that I always did in your position. It never turned out well for me. I don't want to sound like I'm just bragging on myself, but I never brought my ego into a situation like this as a teacher. Unfortunately, I can't say that every teacher in the country feels the same way. It's just not worth the moral victory of being right if you anger a person who can use a position of authority against you.

If you remember this advice when you leave the world of education and get a job, you'll probably want to send me thank-you cards.

Do you ever argue with teachers?
Mr. Toche taught statistics, sociology, and human sexuality to college students for four years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He saw, learned, and experienced more horrors than you can well imagine in that time.

Got a question for an English, science, math, writing, special ed, sociology, or PE teacher, or a specific question for Mr. Toche? Send it to contribute@sparknotes.com!

Related post: Are You Obsessed With Grades?

Topics: Life, College Advisor
Tags: teachers, ask a teacher, arguing, classroom discussions

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