Questions unanswered

THERE must have been at least a time in your teaching career when a student has come to you with a question you were not able to answer and there could have been a few reasons for this.

Perhaps you really didn’t know the answer or perhaps you did, but you wanted the students to figure it out themselves.

The third possibility is that there really was no answer for the question asked.

Whatever it is, a situation like this can be quite unnerving especially if you are a recently qualified teacher in your first posting, or if it is the first time you are teaching a particular subject.

All of a sudden you seem to be surrounded by a group of eager teenagers keen to discover your weakest spots.

If you feel at times that their innocent and keen expressions when they ask you questions — which although relevant to your subject are way beyond the syllabus — may not be totally innocent, your hunch may be right.

My friend Dilla believes there are whole groups of them (students) out there, “nerdy types who spend entire evenings thinking up questions on quantum physics or comparative history just to rattle your nerves, when they should be on Facebook or watching movies or something.”

So what do you do when you don’t have the answers?

“Just tell them it’s not in the syllabus,” said one teacher in a clipped tone that suggested the issue was a no-brainer.

“Tell them to focus on what they need to know for the exam. They can learn about the other things once they finish school.”

“I pretend I am suddenly very busy,” said another teacher.

“I look at my watch or phone then suddenly remember I have this very important meeting and tell my students I will get back to them on the topic later.

“Usually I do some research when I get back and the next time I meet them, I do give them the answers as if I had known them all along,” added the teacher

“Saving face is very important in the profession. You can’t let students go off thinking the teacher’s not so smart and that he doesn’t know the answers.”

But students often have an uncanny knack of knowing when teachers are being real and when they are putting it on.

by Mallika Yasugi.

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