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When a student points out a mistake in your teaching

We are all human and it is well known that humans err. To err is human. So there is nothing wrong if a teacher makes an error. However if a student points out the mistake, somehow, the teacher may take it as a slight, an insult and react in a belligerent way. This is because he is consumed by ego and to be told by a mere student that he is wrong is equivalent to emasculating him. And that is wrong. He should remember that “to err is human” Forget about the second part viz. “to forgive is divine” which does not come into picture here.

A teacher should have above all, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, a sense of fair play, and humility. If one is endowed with these attributes then this teacher will realize that he has indeed erred and being pointed out by a student should doubly encourage him to be careful, to teach better and accept the mistake and correct it immediately. He should also thank the student for his alacrity and intelligence in pointing out the mistake and say further that if anyone else finds mistakes in his teaching they are encouraged to point it out as we are all interested in developing knowledge and knowledge is truth. The teacher becomes a better person and the student will admire him for his honesty and understanding. He thus earns the respect even more. If on the other hand the teacher denounces the student and raves and rants he will not achieve anything. On the other hand he buys derision which may last forever.

It is also essential for a teacher to accept the fact that he does not know the answer to some questions, rather than, with bravado, try to answer the question in a devious manner, confusing the student further. One of the main arsenals in the teacher’s armoury is the divine and humble statement: I DO NOT KNOW. Having said this, the teacher should immediately say that although he does not know the answer, he shall ensure that he learns the answer and get back to the student in the next class. This gives the students confidence in the teacher and their trust in him doubles.

Knowledge in most cases is a two way street. It is more than likely that some exceptional students have the propensity to understand the subject quicker and thus are able to discover mistakes, if any, and room should be given for such students to express this in the interest of education. A teacher is always a student. Remember this.

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