What to Do When Your Instructor is Wrong

Angry massage teacher


We all have different relationships with the authority figures in our lives. Some folks tend to be cautious and courteous, while others would rather “stick it to The Man” Whether you’re a hot debater or a silent note-taker, your massage school instructors are human beings. This means, at some point, the odds are that they’re going to make a mistake. But what do you do when the teachers you rely on for information are giving you information that’s just plain wrong?

Step 1: Don’t panic. One bit of misinformation doesn’t mean your entire school career has been for naught. The world isn’t ending, and nobody’s about to die. Coming across as upset makes you look less credible, so take a deep breath and try to approach the situation calmly.

Step 2: Ask for clarity. Maybe your instructor didn’t actually mean what you thought she did. Make sure you know what she’s talking about before you decide she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

Step 3: Raise your objection. Do it calmly, and with an open mind. “I was under the impression that …” “But in my chemistry class, we learned that …” “But isn’t it true that …?” Your instructor might or might not listen to you at this point, but you’ll find out her stance on the issue at hand.

Step 4: Make sure to avoid logical fallacies. Appealing to authority, or common knowledge, or assuming that what happened to your aunt’s best friend’s brother is universally applicable is a quick way to demonstrate that there’s no reason to take your arguments seriously.

Step 5: Do some research. What does it say in your textbook? What do other reliable sources say? Is there genuine scientific controversy about the subject, or is it just a lot of media hype? Have there been peer-reviewed studies done on the topic? How reliable were they?

If hunting down abstracts on PubMed seems intimidating to you, you might want to take a course on how to read and evaluate research. The Massage Therapy Foundation offers an online class called Basics of Research Literacy that can help you learn to locate research to help you in your studies and your massage career, as well as providing information on how to evaluate the quality of the research you find.

Step 6: Bring your research to your instructor in private. This is partly because she’s less likely to feel like you’re attacking her personally if you bring up the issue again in private, and partly because good research takes a while to absorb, which might not be the most efficient use of your class time.

Step 7: Be sure to remain on good terms with your instructor. Sharing knowledge is supposed to be a cornerstone of our professional relationships, not a hindrance to them. Make sure your instructor knows that you value her expertise and openness to new understanding.
There is lots of information out there in the massage world, some of it bad, and some of it good. By developing a habit of critical thinking how, you’re setting the stage for a long career in this swiftly-evolving field.