growth mindset · Innovator's Mindset · Mandy Froehlich · professional development · reflections

Stop Apologizing for Not Knowing

I have always been interested in tech, and I’ve always been willing to show what I know even before I was a technology integrator. Regardless of what position I’ve been in, there are always people that have apologized while I’ve been helping them. It’s usually a “I’m sorry I’m not good at this” or “I’m sorry that I don’t know more about this stuff” or “I’m sorry I’m so stupid with tech.” My response has always been the same:

Please don’t apologize. I know what I do because early on I learned not be afraid of pushing buttons. If you knew everything I did, I wouldn’t have a job. My job is to help you learn.

While I understand that for some people (myself included) saying something like this actually translates into “Thank you for your help”, I don’t want people apologizing for a couple of reasons. First, to say your sorry means that you feel bad for something. In this case, probably believing that you’re inconveniencing the person you’re asking to assist you, but just because we’re educators does not mean that we are not allowed to ask questions or request help. We are not required to be all knowing. It certainly doesn’t mean that there should be feelings of guilt associated with being unsure about how to do something. Second, just by asking, you’ve already made my day. All I’ve ever wanted from the people that I’ve helped is the willingness to learn. Excitement for the learning is a total bonus.

I was working with one of my favorite teachers today, Lori Hron. She approached me to meet with her so she could become more innovative, not even recognizing the amount of innovation already in her classroom. She asked for a standing meeting on the calendar, so every other week around the same time we meet and discuss lessons and projects she has coming up, and we brainstorm ways to create something new out of what she has. My absolute favorite part is that she is so excited. You can see it on her face. It makes me feel the same way working with Lori as it did when I was a teacher and the students thought one of the assigned projects was awesome: total elation and a reminder of why I do my job. A couple of months ago she published her first tweet. A month ago she joined the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (#IMMOOC). Today, she published her first blog post. She has apologized to me for not knowing, and yet has been willing to learn and move forward despite her discomfort with what she didn’t know, and I couldn’t be more proud to work with her.

I’ve had people say to me that teachers should be able to learn about new initiatives on their own because they are professionals. I disagree. It doesn’t seem like best practice to expect people to learn something new on their own without the district’s vision on the initiative and significant professional development. Instead, I believe that because teachers are professionals, they should be willing to learn, and we should respect their time and efforts by providing them with the learning that they need to be successful. That respect for professional learning leads to questions without apology, and hopefully excitement in the possibilities of learning something new.

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