What? Wrong? Me? But I’m the teacher!
Laughable, isn’t it?
But sometimes we teachers are afraid to admit when we have made a mistake. After all, we are people, too, and people generally have a hard time admitting when they are wrong.
But, and this is a biggie, it is even more important for a teacher to admit mistakes.
Because kids can spot a phony a mile away.
I have found that it is better to ‘fess up when you make a mistake than it is to try and cover it up. If the outspoken students of today don’t call you on it in front of everyone, they will at the very least become distrustful of you as a disseminator of information and possibly as a person.
Case in point: you misspell a word on your Powerpoint slide and a student questions you about it. Instead of covering up with a little white lie such as “I must have been in a hurry,” it is better to just go ahead and admit that you misspelled the word. The reason isn’t important to the kid. What is important is that they see that you are human, you make mistakes, and you own them and learn from them.
“Thanks for the catch, Joey!”
That kind of response will not hurt your credibility at all, and it will raise your esteem in your students’ eyes as well as giving the student who caught it a little boost.
Yes, I know that was a minor example. What about this situation?
You advise a whole class to take Chemistry the year after Biology only to have several of the students come back to you and tell you the counselors signed them up for another science course such as Physics instead of Chemistry.
Do you save face and give them an excuse or just go ahead and admit that you didn’t know what you were talking about?
Telling them the truth–that you were mistaken–will help them see you as a human being who sometimes makes mistakes.
Of course, it’s not a good idea to constantly make mistakes in the classroom. After all, you are supposed to be the educated authority. Make sure you know your subject matter but don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know the answer to a specific question.
“But you’re the teacher!” is a response I heard a lot over my career.
My answer? “Yes, but teachers can’t possibly know or remember everything. Let’s find out together and we will both learn.”
So. . .go ahead and admit when you are wrong. It’s okay. They already know you aren’t perfect. But now they will know they can trust you, and you will earn their respect.