Nobody, and I mean nobody, likes feeling like an idiot. I think that’s why, when I’m teaching something basic but I know that everybody in the classroom needs to be on the same page in regards to the basics that I can’t move on without them 100% knowing it, but I don’t know who’s mastered the basics, who’s almost there, and who doesn’t have a clue but isn’t saying anything, that I say to everybody, “I think you all know this, and I don’t mean to insult your intelligence, but I’ll just review this a bit before we go on.”
Because noboby, and I mean nobody, likes feeling like an idiot such that some of us would rather keep quiet than looking like an idiot in a roomful of people who seem to know this stuff — whatever “this stuff” happens to be.
In spite of my lengthy past posts, as an undergrad and even as a graduate student in many of my courses, I kept my mouth shut as people around me who seemed much more knowledgeable than I was talked. When I was younger, in my undergrad days, I used to think “more knowledgeable” meant “smarter.” I’ve since learned that’s not necessarily so. But in my undergrad days, surrounded by people who went to private schools, whose family seemed to either have more money or more connections than my family, who seemed to know a whole heck a lot more than I did even before the classes had begun, I kept my mouth shut and listened. I listened hard. Some of what I heard I agreed with and some I didn’t, but for the life of me, I really couldn’t explain why. I didn’t have the book learnin’, didn’t have the words, and just plain didn’t have the life experience to explain why back then.
Well, now I have some book learnin’. Now I have some words. Now I have some life experience, to explain why I agree with some things and vehemently disagree with other things. But that doesn’t mean that the feeling that I’m an idiot in many topics goes away. And wanting to keep my mouth shut when that happens is still my first, immediate response because, well, I don’t like feeling like an idiot.
But how the heck can I call myself a teacher if I won’t admit that I’m still a student? And a student learns from all sorts of sources, and not just official teachers. People I respect, approve of, and love, certainly — but, even though sometimes I won’t ever admit it, people that I despise, mistrust, and even downright hate. And so, I’ve learned to ask questions, to say, “Okay, maybe I’m just stupid, but –” which is hard for me, a person who’s book learnin’ is so pretty, like a shining jewel, that, in staring at it, I smack right into the wall of my ignorance so hard that I knock myself out. What I’m learning to do is look up from the ground and say, “Uh…help, please?” It’s okay to be an idiot; whether I remain an idiot is up to me.