One of the best things about teaching is realizing how much you don’t know. Every time I teach I’m asked questions that I don’t know the answer to. Sometimes I simply say that I don’t know. Other times I answer with confidence and then lie awake at night wondering whether I’ve led a student astray. I’ve found that reflecting on those hard-to-answer questions forces me to acknowledge biases and areas of weakness that I need to be aware of. Whether they’re philosophical, grammatical, or practical, the unanswerable questions are often the richest. I am excited to share my unanswerables through this blog series, so stay tuned for monthly installments.
Volume 1: A Misanswer
A student recently asked me why you can’t say “we enplaned at 2pm.” My answer was that “enplaned” isn’t a word. And then I actually searched for the word and in two seconds flat discovered that I was totally wrong:
It is a word. It just isn’t a word in my idiolect. And I used my teacher power instead of my Googling skills to answer this question. Granted, the word is not widely used in my community and the few people I polled also said it wasn’t a word, so maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. If I had known it was a word, I would have told the student that it’s not commonly used in this bit of the world and then I would have suggested a more idiomatic expression.
Ok, so this was a misanswered question rather than an unanswered one. But, it has sprouted another question for me: When will I know everything? Just kidding! More honestly: when will I be comfortable being a teacher who sometimes gives the wrong answer?