I Don't Know....And It's Okay

By: Devin Riggs, Regular Contributor

As a substitute teacher, I constantly find myself in a different school, in a different classroom, and with different students. You bounce around to where you’re needed. It’s likely you may not teach in the same place two days in a row. Because of the situation, it’s important for me to be adaptable. At the beginning of my day, I always take in my surroundings. This time allows me to familiarize myself with the classroom. How are the desks set up? Where are the boards? Where are the emergency protocols and equipment? Nothing is as interesting to me though as the walls.

Most teachers cover their walls in motivational and inspirational posters and quotes. You can find student work out on display. Many post subject related material. The walls are the most telling about a teacher. They tell you what’s important to him/her. They tell you what their style is, what they emphasize.

The other day I was assigned to school I’d never subbed at before. What was unique about this school was that the sixth grade core teachers rotate, while their students stay in the same room throughout the day. Instead of having just one classroom, I had five to settle into, a different space every single period. In every room though, at the front near the projector was a poster that said, “It’s okay to not know, but it’s not okay to not try.”


I noticed it in the first class, and I let out a long breath. I’d never thought of it in this exact way. Throughout the day I noticed it posted in every classroom I taught in. I was filled with gratitude that this was a belief teachers were trying to instill in their students every day.

Because, it really is okay to not know. It’s okay to guess and be wrong. It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s what learning is all about. I think most people forget that. Learning is about taking risks, discovering, and exploring the possibilities. It’s not okay to not try, to avoid it…the not knowing. The fear of being wrong stops us from trying, stops us from putting ourselves out there and taking the risk that is crucial to our growth.

I want my students to explore, to take risks, to be wrong sometimes. That’s such an important part of learning—to have to rework, reconnect, re-envision previous concepts and theories. Because that’s what you have to do in life. We experience new things every day and must take in new information quickly so that we may make honest and thought-out decisions. It’s okay that we don’t always know what to do, or how to act, or what to say. It’s not okay to not try to learn, try even if we’re wrong. It’s not okay to ignore the answers, to pretend the question doesn’t exist, or assume we know everything.

It’s okay to not know the answers. It’s okay to be uncertain. It’s okay to be afraid. But that should never stop us from trying. We must ask more questions, test theories, use background knowledge and experience to make new connections. We must never be ashamed of being wrong, only humble and patient so that we may continue to grow.

Let's chat! Have you ever failed and it been okay? How do you embrace the unknown? Tell us about it here!

About Devin

DEVIN_RIGGS.jpgDevin has a degree in education with a focus in English. She is working to publish her first collection of poetry while also learning the art of patience. Her passions include Doctor Who, penguins, hats and scarves, potatoes, dancing, photography, and making people happy. She believes in the healing powers of music, spending time in the great outdoors, and a good night sleep.



image via behappy.me

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