Great Teachers Can Admit They Are Wrong To Their Students

It was about a year ago when then President Donald Trump made an assertion that sunlight and heat could offer a cure for COVID-19.

On a stage in April of 2020 with 50,000 Americans dead (over 570,000 now) from the COVID-19 virus addressing a national audience in an election year with the economy crashing and unemployment rising by the second, you do not as a leader have any inkling of being sarcastic on live television.


It wasn’t sarcasm.  Anyone who has taught for years in large public schools could expertly tell you that.

Just say “I was wrong.” And maybe apologize.

Teach thousands of classes, input thousands of grades, manage hundreds (even thousands) of students in a career, you will be wrong in front of students.

And they will catch you and put you on the spot.

Been there – a lot. And I will tell them I was wrong. I will let them argue with me about the answer or the process and if they are right and I was wrong, I will acknowledge it.

Why? Because I have learned that great teachers do that and I want to be a great teacher. If I am going to try and teach my students to be thinkers and inquisitive life-long learners, then I need to remove the obstacles and show them that I am not only capable of being wrong, but willing to keep learning from it.

When a new younger teacher comes into my school and teaches in the same department, one of the first pieces of advice I tell him/her is that they need to get over being the only person who is right. Having students call you out on wrong answers means they are listening and it makes you a better teacher because it shows where you might not be as strong as you will the next class.

Students will respect you for it. They may show it it in different ways. But they will respect you for it. And I have issued my share of apologies and wouldn’t take a single one of them back.

Plus, the “average” student I have in my classes is already a master at verbal irony – which is a rhetorical term.