I Can’t Know Everything!

We all have gaps in our knowledge. You know, that information we should know but don’t. Teachers, professors, professional development leaders, parents, tutors, corporate trainers, grandparents, etc. must remember that sometimes we will encounter the oddest knowledge gaps in our students and ourselves. How we identify and address those gaps is essential. It’s what separates the good teachers from the great.

Example of My Own Weird Gap

Me: Desdemona’s hair is so long and thick. Her ponytail looks like an actual tail of a pony.

Timon: Hahaha! That’s why they are called ponytails.

Me: …

Timon: Wait. Ms. P, you knew that, right? Ponytail, pony’s tail?

Me: Ummm. Yeah. Pish. Of course I knew that. I sure did. Shoot, everybody knows that. Especially me. I knew that so good.

Timon: (disbelieving look) Hahaha, okay Ms. P. It’s cool*.

I didn’t know that! I never thought about it before in my whole entire life. I never actually made the connection that a ponytail was called a ponytail because it looked like a pony’s tail. No clue why my brain never bothered to make that connection. We all have those gaps. Other gaps can include technology, science, history, literature, math, pop culture, sports…

That is why it is so important to consistently assess prior knowledge to identify those gaps and address them. We need to get a firm understanding of what our students know and don’t know so that we can help them learn effectively. Sometimes it is surprising what students may be missing, and at no time is it appropriate to make them feel bad about their gaps. Timon didn’t make me feel bad. And I would never do that to my students. It’s just the natural process of learning. Questioning is a great technique to identify what students know, and there are many other effective ways to gather evidence of prior learning.

Have you ever encountered interest or funny gaps in your students, children, workshop participants, or audience members? What are your gaps? Besides questioning, how do you assess prior knowledge?


I’m not ashamed though. I agree that it’s kind of crazy I didn’t know about the ponytail thing.

This picture is not about the horse's behind.

Image by logesdo

K. Renae P., you’re never pasture prime to learn.


*We say “it’s cool” when somebody makes a mistake, but it’s really no biggie. It helps the kids not sweat the small stuff.

14 thoughts on “I Can’t Know Everything!

  1. I like how you build your slice on the funny personal story. Misunderstandings and missing connections are part of everyone’s life. Your point about not making someone feel bad of this is so right.

  2. haha I have many such blunders trailing me. I also never realized why ponytails were called ponytails. Sigh another addition.

  3. My kids are older (18, 16) and we recently had a funny dinner conversation about all the things that they never understood when they were younger – and then how things dawned on them at certain points in their lives. It’s funny how we assume people know certain things.

    • I love talking about what we used to think.

      My Mom would talk about being “cussed out”. I used to think that meant you could literally pass out from someone saying too many bad words.

  4. LOVE this! I did know about ponytails/pony tails, (I even remember asking my dad about it as a little kid,) but hadn’t thought about it for years!!! Decades, even!!! There’s SO much I don’t know, and the love of learning runs deeply in my soul. And it’s an ok thing to not know stuff, but be open to learning. Must be a teacher thing. 😉 Do you realize that you instinctively provided food for thought? You’re awesome!!!

  5. Haha! That’s funny. My mom called them “pigtails” and that makes no sense at all! One day I started telling my grade 3 class about seeing a moose on the way to work that day. One student said, “Oh Miss, where do you work?” Several of them had no idea that teaching them was my job! I asked them why they thought I was coming there every day. “Cause you like us.” & “Cause you like teaching.” Good enough reasons, I guess!

  6. So funny . . . honestly I don’t think I ever made the connection either! So yes I’m sure I have many gaps in my connections 😉

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