The Power of “I don’t know” (and I’ll find out)…

In my job, I get questions every day.  Many of them.  About curriculum.  Instruction.  Technology.  A combination of all of those.  Troubleshooting.  The list goes on.  Some of them are quick answers.  Some are “show me” answers.  Some begin the process of preparing future PD.  And still some, I will answer “I don’t know”.

Saying those three words is very hard for many people.  We go through our daily routines wanting to be perfect at what we do and wanting to please the people we hope to impress.  Education especially tends to attract perfectionists, or those where something is never good enough.

Saying “I don’t know” is powerful for many reasons.  It shows that we are human.  And that human side is approachable.  Saying “I don’t know” also doesn’t have to mean that we don’t have an answer.  More often than not, for me, it means that I want to do some more research.  I don’t want to just give you a quick answer and have you be on your way.  I need to do some more digging.  Those three words really mean you care enough to give someone else more of your time than they were expecting.

We want our students as well to feel comfortable saying I don’t know, followed by processes of inquiry to find out answers they need.  We do not want them crafting a quick answer of a surface-deep answer.  We want them to go further.  We expect it from them.  We should do the same.

I love my job and care for the staff I work with.  Many of the staff are friends and coworkers.  I want them always to feel comfortable coming to me for what they need and know that I will take the time needed to get them what they need, treating them as individuals.

In an article posted here, Carissa K. writes:

“Some may say that “I don’t know” is the easy way out, apathetic or giving up. While that may be true sometimes, we need to appreciate that there’s power in “I don’t know.” There’s a lesson in it.

“I don’t know” is brave. “I don’t know” is confident. “I don’t know” means I can admit that I don’t know it all.

“I don’t know” means that I’m willing to work collaboratively to come up with an answer together. “I don’t know” means I can turn to others to enlighten me, to teach me and share a lack of certainty with me.

“I don’t know” means that sometimes I can learn more from the process than from the solution.

“I don’t know” means that I still have work to do. “I don’t know” means that I am yearning, seeking and hungry to find the answer. I am still growing when I don’t know.”


We need to start seeing those three words as a trigger for learning…For our students and for ourselves.   We are all human, after all, and there are many things we do not know.  So next time you aren’t ready to give a specific answer or need more time to make it the right answer, be confident in saying “I don’t know…but I’ll find out.”



Categories: 21st Century, PD, PLN

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