My name is Ken; I have worked at Morris Tutoring since 2011, specializing in high school math & science courses. In May, I had a daunting experience. After my first meeting with a new student, he told his mother that I made him feel stupid.
The student in question had made a highly favorable impression on me: when we met, he introduced himself, extended a hand and made direct eye contact. Not something I often encounter in students. So I was both flabbergasted and troubled. What in my body language or tone of voice conveyed this impression?
Two days later, I was invited to participate in a group, testing the new website of a local business. The purpose of the testing was to determine how user-friendly and easy-to-use the new site was. Testers were given tasks to perform, using a working version of the site. One task was especially frustrating, and I felt that I wasted a lot of the group’s time by being unable to complete it quickly. Even after asking for a hint, I could not do it and had to be shown what to do. If others in the group had similar problems with any of the tasks, I was not aware of it.
The upshot of this was: I felt stupid. By asking for a hint I was announcing my stupidity, and by “giving up,” I was confirming it — not only to my testing peers but to the people conducting the test. Besides feeling stupid, I felt rotten.
Later, when my anxiety mellowed, I realized that none of those feelings were true, and that the roadblock I experienced on the test site might actually provide useful information to the designers.
For me, “feeling stupid” was an unwelcome side-effect of the learning process. The fact that my student felt stupid, and thought that I regarded him as such, was likely an example of that — though not necessarily one all learners share. I assured him and his mom, when we next met, that I would never consider a student to be stupid, and if anything in my tone or body language ever suggested otherwise, or in any way made him feel bad, I welcomed his bringing it to my attention so that our learning partnership could better succeed.
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