“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.”