Stupid is as stupid does: Slice of Life 9/31 #SOL20

“This is going to sound, well…” she hesitates, turns her head away from me, “I mean, I know it’s silly, but Idon’twanttolookstupid.” Her head comes back around, chin a little up, glistening eyes meeting mine.

I suspect that she’s only meeting with me because her mom – a friend of mine outside of school – made her. I know she wants help, but I also know she doesn’t want to ask for help. No, it’s more than that: she doesn’t want to have to ask for help. But here we are.


Another student stands in front of her class to give a quick presentation. She is well-prepared but visibly nervous. The first thirty-seconds go well, but once she misses a word her colour rises and suddenly she cannot go on. I encourage her gently and she tries again, but she can’t do it. Tears spring to her eyes.

Later, after the others have left the room she apologizes and says, “I just felt so stupid.”


“Is he using his computer accommodations?” his mother asks on the phone. I’ve called home because he’s having a lot of trouble writing in class. He just can’t seem to get pen to paper, just can’t seem to get the words from his brain to the end of his fingers.
“No,” I admit, shaking my head, though I know she can’t see me. “He absolutely refuses. He says he doesn’t want to seem stupid.”


Look stupid! I want to yell. I want to scream it down the hallways. Look stupid! Just do it! Go out on the limb, take a guess, ask the question! Try the hard way, make a fool of yourself, share your first drafts. Let it all hang out, be yourself, be human. Stop

In class I catch myself saying, “Well, that was stupid” when I make yet another mistake. I look up at a group of soon-to-be graduates, realize what I’ve done and correct myself, “Guess stupid is as good a starting point as any. Might as well keep going.”


16 thoughts on “Stupid is as stupid does: Slice of Life 9/31 #SOL20

  1. I love the way the mood of this moves from a calm, reasoned conversation, something descriptive to a full out rant, and then…self reflection. In such a short piece. So engaging, and I am using these lines: “Look stupid! Just do it! Go out on the limb, take a guess, ask the question! Try the hard way, make a fool of yourself, share your first drafts. Let it all hang out, be yourself, be human.

    Yes. Absolutely, yes.
    Be human.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Even if YOU felt stupid, I am glad that you have kept going…

    I have had similar conversations with parents. Navigating this shame is SO difficult.


  3. Such an important life lesson for some of us. You’ve really captured that teenage feeling of feeling on stage for everything. I’m now trying to remember how old I was when I stopped caring if I look “stupid” in front of others. Maybe I still feel that way sometimes.


  4. I love how you acknowledged your own slip, and then turned it into a good lesson for your students. It doesn’t apply perfectly, but this piece reminds me of a quote that I enjoy, “It is the most difficult thing in the world to distinguish between genuine stupidity, and that apparent and deceitful stupidity which is the sign of strong character.” – Jean-Jaques Rousseau


  5. There is a big difference between shamelessness and humility. I feel that sometimes we send confusing messages about which one is prized. A deep understanding of humility can only exist alongside graciousness. The kind of graciousness that not only allows for mistakes but also for assisting others to a deeper understanding support in failure and success. Both humility and graciousness strengthens perseverance. Shamelessness weakens resolve. How do we distinguish between the two for our students?

    I love how you demonstrate this through self reflection. Thank you for sharing!


  6. This is a true-to-life post if I ever read one. It’s hard to reach past those teenage angst-y fears of looking foolish in front of peers–unless it’s on their own terms, of course. Maybe it’s time for the teacher to act a little stupid on purpose? Maybe have a day where everyone has to try something they’re not good at, make mistakes in public, and learn how to get over it with grace and humility…


  7. I think it’s great that these kids are at least articulating their feelings… I’m. It sure how you work past this now… but you’ve shown us many times how you model your own struggles.


  8. I have an easy button in my classroom that is only allowed to be pressed when kids have done something challenging. We should have a “That was Stupid” button for times when kids have overcome the fear and got it done. Teachers, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes, “stupid is as good a starting place as any.” My heart breaks for students who don’t understand WE ALL MESS UP lots. I love opportunities that allow me to ask kids for help. I want them to know it’s okay not to know, okay to ask for help. If it weren’t for a student, I’d never have met Google or Wikipedia.


  10. Oh, gosh. I recently said the same about myself in front of my 3rd graders. The gasps, the looks of horror. It is an off-limits, don’t-you-dare utter that word kind of word for 3rd graders, and it took us awhile to recover from it. I dare say I was not as graceful with it as you, but I will remember your reframing of it, should the ‘s’ word rear its ugly head again. Thanks for this post-it reminds me that, even though 3rd graders hate the word, it finds its way to our older students, and we have some work to do so that they can see it as a “starting place” instead of the end.


  11. “Guess stupid is as good a starting point as any. Might as well keep going.”–Now, that is simply brilliant and a great recovery on your part. I love how you structured this piece in small vignettes. That really captures how prevalent a problem this is. Tom Newkirk wrote a book called “Embarrassment” that I’ve been intending to read for a couple of years. It’s about how the fear of embarrassment impacts learning.Have you read it?


  12. I can relate. It seems that our youngest learners take those leaps risks. Then…. they become middle schoolers- forget it. High schoolers, depends on the kid. As adults, we know we learn from our mistakes, but it is still hard to make them.


  13. This was a so true, but I think it often takes a lot of confidence to be willing to look stupid. It’s hard to feel confident when you don’t feel competent. I think it’s really great, though, that you’re willing to risk looking “stupid” in front of your students.


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