Its a difficult thing to say to a student that you either don't know the answer or that you are wrong. Hubris like this is a dangerous thing. I was reminded of this when cycling home on friday evening. I am a fairly fast cyclist, or at the very least competent, and I can weave my way through traffic better than I can control year 9. In order to get home i had to ride through the centre of a town whose road system looks like it was put together by a child who had just received the traffic lights expansion pack for their toy roads but was waiting until christmas to get the roundabouts. This was interval training at its grandest scale, and all the time in the middle of rush-hour, rainsoaked, angry traffic. I did a little bit of skipping queues down the middle of the road but got pretty bored of this pretty quickly and just took the queues on the chin.
Unlike my new found calm a number of cyclists were legging it along the road like year tens after a healthy dose of orange sherbert. I wasn't terribly insulted or challenged by this, but it was their whole aura of invincible arrogance that appaulled me. They had this horrible 'come and get me' attitude towards drivers. These past couple of weeks there has been a number of incidents involving international cyclists and coaches that have caused injured cyclists. I cannot judge who was at fault in these, but i'm afraid that the common cyclist has developed this idea that if any driver hits them then it is immediately the drivers fault. I have seen crashes before and I can assure anyone that the fight between a tonne of steel and 10 kilos of aluminium is pretty one sided.
It would be easy to ignore this petulant behaviour and simply claim that these riders will reap the dubious rewards found underneath a car but it is the attitude that purveys through driving culture that causes the rest of us to suffer. If cyclists ride like arseholes then drivers will act like arseholes towards us, it is simple.
How does this react to teaching? Well it is reasonably tenuous I must say, but this week I found myself in a situation where one of my classes felt like a battlefield before I even walked in. There was a sense of battlelines drawn across the classroom floor between a particular group of students and myself and I thought; 'Wait. Maybe this isn't just them. Maybe they aren't just little shits. Maybe I need to start to move this into a more comfortable attitude in the classroom.' So i tried something. Something learned from a lecture a long time ago and ignored a long time ago as well. I declared that I didn;t know the answer to something and i wrote the question on the board and then i went home and found it out and told them. It didn't change everything straight away but it did seem to help change the atmosphere and the next lesson, where I presented my researched answer was a lot better in terms of work ethic. I think showing that you care about your own learning sets the precident that as cyclists we should also set if we expect to be respected by drivers.