TEACHERS SHARE space with people who aren’t as knowledgeable or understanding of a subject as they are. Sometimes, students will display incredible depths of ignorance. Most students try, but there are some who are unwilling to meet a teacher even halfway. Worst of all are the insolent ones. Proud of their ignorance, they dismiss the subject—and the teacher—with not-so-veiled disrespect.
You know what a good teacher does in the face of all this? She takes a moment, squelches all her frustration and even anger, and tries again.
Jonathan Swift observed more than 300 years ago that, “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it.” Imagine his reaction to today’s instantaneous, million-multiplying falsehoods that travel at the speed of social media? We’ve all been faced with the sneer of the doubters, adamant about their misinformation.
Unfortunately, most of us aren’t good teachers. We shout, we question the person’s intelligence, we throw out gratuitous insults. We could ask for the source of their information. Instead, we opt for rhetorical questions like, “How can you be so stupid?”
We need to be good teachers. Spewing venom, even as a return shot, does nothing to educate the ignorant person. In fact, it drives them (and perhaps you) further from learning. It may feel good, but it’s really a prideful display of our supposed superiority. This only tends to escalate the situation.
You may say you don’t have time for such lost souls. But that’s like a doctor saying he only treats the healthy and has no time for the truly sick. If you’re out of patience, just walk away. Spewing bile only leaves the other person more entrenched and more difficult for the next person to persuade.
You already know this. Everyone does. No one has ever experienced a change of heart after being yelled at or insulted, no matter how wrong he may be.
Good teachers also know one other thing. Education is a life-long process. There is almost never an “aha” moment like in the movies. Understanding is gained inch by inch, from open-minded people willing to revisit what they think they already know. It’s a long road traveled on little wheels. It takes lots of turns to make progress—and it goes faster if the road is paved with patience.