Monday, October 21, 2013

I Don’t Know What That Means

Learning requires not knowing.

Allowing not knowing requires vulnerability.

Vulnerability requires a level of safety that is unique to each person.

To practice the art of not knowing and thus increase the potential for learning, I invite you to experiment with the use of the following six magic words:

“I don’t know what that means.”

I began experimenting with them myself, about a month ago, after paying close attention to a teacher who I have since come to admire greatly. 

I watched, as she listened carefully to each of her students. When someone said something that was unclear to her, she simply stated from a place of stillness, “I don’t know what that means.”  Then, without exception, each person would naturally offer an explanation or reconsider her own level of understanding and search for a deeper knowing.

I was amazed by this teacher and her comfort with not knowing. Her ability to be vulnerable. Her willingness to become the student in the presence of her students.

I’ve been surprised to find just how often I keep quiet when I don’t know something-- surprised to find that my silence is frequently a sign that I am afraid and avoiding judgment. 

Thinking about this phenomenon, having it confirmed that others experience the very same thing, has led me to wonder just how many opportunities to learn, by me and my students, have been missed. I do find, however, that a better use of my time is to wonder what I might do to make a change.

The answer is simple...

“I don’t know what that means.” - That is the answer!

Since being struck by the spell of these words, I’ve had great fun playing with them. I assure you they are magic. Anything that can create something from nothing, knowing from not knowing, is certain to have a bit of magic in it. See so for yourself.

By Michael Trotta, Sagefire Institute  

1 comment:

  1. As I have gotten more comfortable in my role as an educator (I think it comes with getting old(er) ) I find so much freedom on those words. “I don’t know what that means”. I find myself saying that even in administrative meetings in front of the principals, superintendent and curriculum director. "I don’t know what that means" I actually think you gain more credibility with people when they see you as someone not afraid to be vulnerable to knowing when you don’t know. I am an expert on nothing. I am simply a lifelong learner with a lot of passion and with depth of knowledge but with every new thing learned comes one more thing TO learn. I wish more people could feel free enough to say, "I don't know what that means".