Recently, I braved a 1-hour Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lesson at a local gym.
I have not been in any kind of martial arts class in about 30 years. I didn’t know what to expect.
I felt stupid.
I felt out of place.
I felt the urge to leave and say, “I can’t do this” as the instructor taught us what he described as very basic moves. (You know, the “basic” move of choking out a guy 100 pounds heavier than you.)
But then I thought about my students. “How many of them have had this same feeling in school? In my class?” I needed to tough this out.
It was embarrassing to look around and see others completing what they viewed as “basic” moves and the urge to just leave was almost always present.
If I, an adult, who knows that learning new things is challenging struggled like this how do my students feel who don’t know this?
If I, an adult, who wouldn’t see any of these people again if I didn’t want to, felt embarrassed, how must students feel who don’t know something, feel in front of their peers?
How Those “Lost” Students Feel
Those students who always seem a step or two behind in your class likely feel exactly as I did at this BJJ lesson.
As a child I can imagine those feelings of embarrassment would be compounded.
Those students probably want to flee the scene when they don’t understand.
Students learning something new, in front of their peers, feel vulnerable.
They want to avoid the pain of not knowing. They want to avoid the pain of their peers seeing them look inferior. This is human nature.
What Those Students Need
Those “lost” students need a load of reassurance. I know I did.
Those students need to know it is ok to have strengths and weaknesses. Those students want patience. Those students need to know that not knowing something is part of the process. Learning is not an end game where we suddenly know everything. It is a never-ending process.
What Else Can Teachers Do?
I know that I need to regularly put myself in uncomfortable positions to learn new things. I need to do this as part of a group. Doing this will help remind me of how learning feels. Of how my students feel.
And because I better practice what I preach.
This story will also be a great way to bond with my students. To show them I am “like” them as a learner and I had to go through the same emotional, mental struggle as them and survived.