Jeremy Côté


Within One’s Expertise

Because I am a tutor for secondary students, most people assume that I know everything that needs to be known about those classes. However, that could not be further from the truth. In fact, I frequently encounter problems that the students I help have that I cannot answer. It’s not even that I don’t know the answer. Sometimes, it’s just so far back in my mind that I don’t remember what the exact steps are.

When this happens, I don’t beat around the bush and pretend I know the answer. I tell them I have no clue, and that we’ll work it out. The reason I do this is twofold. First, it’s probably true, since a lot of the secondary mathematics is straightforward after doing more advanced mathematics. But the second reason is that I want to show them that I am not a robot that knows all the answers to their questions. I’m a student just like them (even if I become a teacher as well), and I’m constantly learning. I want them to know that I am just like they are, expect a few years further down the line. That’s it. I’m not a mathematical prodigy or someone who can do all the calculations in their head. I’m just there to give them a hand when they need it.

This is why I’m not too scared of straying from my expertise. Yes, I may not have much experience in all the classes in secondary school (in fact, the majority of students I tutor this year are taking a class I’ve never taken), but there’s no harm in learning. Plus, learning this way also helps me become a better teacher in the future.

I’m definitely not advocating for you to proclaim expertise in every area of your life. I’m just saying that if you are willing to put in the hard work to learn, it’s entirely possible to become more knowledgeable at anything. Therefore, don’t restrict yourself to your personal expertise where you are comfortable. Experiment, and try to learn new things.