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Honest Teacher: Sometimes Teachers Don’t Know the Answer

Honest Teacher Peter Bui logo

This sponsored column is written by Peter Bui, founder of The Honest Teacher. An Arlington native and former teacher, Peter offers private tutoring services that focus on the individual needs of students and emphasize the core values of confidence, independence and resilience.

Sometimes teachers don’t know the answer, most of the time they won’t admit it.

Students, parents, and administrations trust that teachers know what they are teaching. But sometimes, a teacher takes that trust for granted and it’s hard to admit it when he  doesn’t know the answer.

A great teacher will prepare or at least have an understanding of the material on such a deep level, that he is able to teach the lesson to anyone. But not everyone can be great.

A good teacher will try his best, he knows the material and will explain it in multiple ways, hoping one way is the key to having students get it. A bad teacher is one that’s faking it and just trying to get through the lesson.

Faking it can be an invisible catastrophe. Confusion results from a lesson not delivered well and the confusion turns into frustration when an assignment is given. Multiple assignments and a consistent feeling of being lost ultimately turn into boredom. The boredom creates a vicious cycle of tuning out and more confusion.

Students who are bored in class don’t realize the long-term consequence and believe they are simply bad at a subject on the day of the test when they haven’t done well. Difficulty in math isn’t an inability, sometimes, it’s a symptom of a moment of confusion that was never clarified.

Bad teachers fake it because they will have to work harder to improve (something they require from their own students). Inability and laziness are typical excuses a poor teacher might use to redirect attention away from themselves for fear of losing their job.

Sadly, bad teachers will find new jobs. They will float from school to school doing damage to students’ education wherever they go and they get away with it. By the time the administration realizes, several years can pass and plenty of lives have been affected. The only people witnessing on a daily basis the teacher’s skills are the students, who either don’t know better or don’t have the voice or power to change it.

Not all teachers fake it. The best teachers will admit when they don’t know something and tell students he will get back to them. This humility is crucial. It shows students that not everyone has the answer. Even a teacher is a student sometimes and there’s always something new to learn. Intelligence is continually learning/growing and not static.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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