Over the last few years I have been collecting quotes that I help me reflect and think about my thoughts, emotions and judgements in particular situations.
“I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken” Oliver Cromwell
I first came across this quote in the Ascent of Man – quite possibly one of the best television series ever made – and again recently while reading. Not only does this quote help me temper some of my own thinking about situations I encounter but it also helps me to evaluate my own claims about things I think I know.
I now think about knowledge in terms of certainty and uncertainty – for everything I claim to know I like to ask myself how certain I am that this is true, with the maximum being 95% – even the claims we think are completely true, could, ultimately turn out to be false.
The power of curiosity
“Be curious, not judgmental” Walt Whitman
I first encountered this quote as the desktop image for a colleague. I think it is safe to say that this colleague is one of two educators that have had a profound and lasting impact on my engagement with and thinking about teaching as a profession.
For me this quote challenges me to ask questions and hold back from arriving at conclusions. When we reach a conclusion about anything, we tend to close a door on that something and therefore lose some of the potential it may hold. For example, an idea I meet a lot when talking to families goes something along the lines of “the only universities worth attending are the Russell Group or the Ivy League” This is a value judgement but is this really true? How do we know this?
Killing my paranoia
“Never assume malice, when stupidity will suffice” Hanlon’s Razor
This is a new one for me and I came across it in Julian Baggini’s “How the World Thinks”. It went straight up on the IBDP common room wall (although I changed stupidity to ignorance). A great way to check one’s paranoia and emotional response to stressful situations life throws your way!
“The less someone knows, the more they think they know, and the more someone knows, the less they think they know” The Dunning-Kruger Effect
Are you over confident?
A a senior colleague once attended a conference on university admissions and guidance with me. They had said prior to going that this was an area they knew they wanted to improve in because they knew so little about it. A fine thing to admit. Admitting to gaps in our knowledge opens us up to new learning.
After our first meeting with parents where we discussed the generation of predicted grades, this colleague turned to me and remarked how much more confident they felt in dealing with parents about these issues.
Just a little extra knowledge (how much can someone glean from a day and a half professional conference) lead this colleague to immediately over estimate their own knowledge of the issues.
Beware your own confidence – if you think you are an expert on something or just think you know a lot about something, it is probably an indication that you don’t know that much at all and you need to keep learning!
Note to school leaders: you don’t need to know everything – in-fact admit what you don’t know – you will gain more respect and open yourself up to the possibility of learning.
What are the quotes that got you thinking?