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    #1

    Red face What do you say to your student(s) when you don't know something?

    Hi,

    I have a new student who asks a lot of questions, but for some reason with this new student I find myself in the embarrassing situation that sometimes I just don't know the answer. I have other students who also ask, but most of the time it's not a problem.

    I really don't know what to say to him anymore, especially as they're questions about grammar. Sometimes I manage to change the subject, but other times I just don't know what to say...I'm sure that he's just sitting there thinking that he has the worst English teacher!

    I feel as a native English person that gives English lessons, people seem to think you know all the rules off the top of you head. What should I say? Should say I'll look it up and we'll talk about it in the next lesson or should I bluff my way through it?

    Any advice is appreciated!

    Thank you!

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: What do you say to your student(s) when you don't know something?

    Welcome to the forum.

    Don't bluff your way through it! You'll get caught out. I suggest something like "That's a great question. It's not the topic of today's lesson but how about I put together a lesson on it for next week/next month?"

    Remember that you are the person who dictates the topic of the class. It's easy to get dragged off track by questions - good, bad or average.

    You're absolutely right that your students think there is nothing you don't know. That's just the way it is. However, you know it's not possible for anyone to know all the rules, or to instantly be able to explain them and come up with examples.

    There is very little point explaining a grammar rule unless you have time to go into it properly, with examples and exercises. You can explain to that student that it would be of no benefit to anyone to half-explain something.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  2. salvador.dal1950's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: What do you say to your student(s) when you don't know something?

    Hi, I'm by no means qualified to post in this section, since I'm not a teacher and English is not my first language, but I've had teachers that tried to bluff their way through a question or change the subject and we students can tell. I wouldn't think less of any teacher because she/he says "I don't know" many times, I really appreciate when they share their lack of knowledge in some area, it makes me feel as if it were normal not to know everything (which it is).

    I hope I haven't been too harsh .

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    #4

    Re: What do you say to your student(s) when you don't know something?

    Quote Originally Posted by salvador.dal1950 View Post
    Hi, I'm by no means qualified to post in this section, since I'm not a teacher and English is not my first language, but I've had teachers that tried to bluff their way through a question or change the subject and we students can tell. I wouldn't think less of any teacher because she/he says "I don't know" many times, I really appreciate when they share their lack of knowledge in some area, it makes me feel as if it were normal not to know everything (which it is).

    I hope I haven't been too harsh .

    No, not too harsh at all! I appreciate your input. Thank you.

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    #5

    Re: What do you say to your student(s) when you don't know something?

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Welcome to the forum.

    Don't bluff your way through it! You'll get caught out. I suggest something like "That's a great question. It's not the topic of today's lesson but how about I put together a lesson on it for next week/next month?"

    Remember that you are the person who dictates the topic of the class. It's easy to get dragged off track by questions - good, bad or average.

    You're absolutely right that your students think there is nothing you don't know. That's just the way it is. However, you know it's not possible for anyone to know all the rules, or to instantly be able to explain them and come up with examples.

    There is very little point explaining a grammar rule unless you have time to go into it properly, with examples and exercises. You can explain to that student that it would be of no benefit to anyone to half-explain something.
    Thank you for your warm welcome and your reply. I'm definitely going to try out your suggestion.

  3. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: What do you say to your student(s) when you don't know something?

    You're welcome. Just make sure you keep a note of all the topics you promise to explain at a later date and actually cover them. That student might well remember what he asked about. You don't want him to come to you at the end of term and say "You never did explain XXX and you promised you would".
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #7

    Re: What do you say to your student(s) when you don't know something?

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    You're welcome. Just make sure you keep a note of all the topics you promise to explain at a later date and actually cover them. That student might well remember what he asked about. You don't want him to come to you at the end of term and say "You never did explain XXX and you promised you would".
    OK, thanks again! Have a great week.

  4. Newbie
    Retired English Teacher
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    #8

    Re: What do you say to your student(s) when you don't know something?

    Hey Nancy.

    I usually said "I don't know". Then I'd promise, as emsr suggests, to look into it and let the student know in a later class.

    None of us know everything and admitting being human often helps students be kinder with you.

    peace,
    revel.

  5. Alex S's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: What do you say to your student(s) when you don't know something?

    It's very easy actually. I say "I do not know. I will find it out and tell you next time". I do not think it's wrong or bad. No one is perfect, and none of us know everything (as the previous commentator has mentioned already).

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    #10

    Re: What do you say to your student(s) when you don't know something?

    While I don't teach English as a language I do work as an academic writing support tutor and a subject lecturer in Business and Computing. This is something that happens more frequently than I care to admit but my response is usually along the lines of "I'm not sure off the top of my head, let's have a look together to find the answer" and I then use their question as a method of teaching them how to look and where to find the answers for themselves; promoting lifelong learning is the best response I've found

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