About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 5051-5057
Publication year: 2009
ISBN: 978-84-613-2953-3
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain


P. Bernabei

Top 20 Training (UNITED STATES)
The beliefs that students have about themselves have a major influence on the quality of their lives, relationships and learning. When students have experiences in which they feel stupid, they can develop the belief that "I am stupid." These feelings and beliefs limit their learning and potential. Although normally unbeknown to educators, stupid feelings and beliefs are rampant in our students. Many of these are actually experienced in school. As educators, we need to begin a professional conversation regarding this issue and determine how we might minimize its damaging effects.

Based on research of hundreds of students from the United States, five causes of stupid have been identified:
(1) Called: some students are called stupid or other words that have similar meaning. This includes non-verbals that are directed to students by parents, teachers and peers.
(2) Comparisons: when students compare themselves or are compared by others, they often experience feelings of stupid.
(3) Confusion: students begin to feel stupid when they are confused. This is a particular problem in school where confusion is a daily experience and a natural part of the learning process. For this reason, confusion needs to become part of the curriculum.
(4) Can't: when students can't do something or when they fail or make a mistake.
(5) Certain situations: when students experience certain situations, they feel stupid. Some of these include needing help, reading out loud in class or just being in lower level classes.

Students who feel stupid react in certain ways. These include:
(1) Withdrawing: quitting, getting quiet, or choosing not to participate.
(2) Pretending: pretending they understand or know something when they really don't or pretending they can do something when they really can't.
(3) Being emotional: being embarrassed, angry, sad, worried, nervous or stressed.
(4) Judging themselves: "I’m not good enough"; "I don’t know anything"; "I’m bad at everything"; "I'm stupid."
(5) Attacking: arguing, swearing, challenging, bullying.
(6) Being defensive: judging a class, topic or teacher as being stupid.
(7) Being motivated: working harder to do better in school but still maintaining inside feelings of being stupid or not good enough.
(8) Becoming numb: medicating themselves or becoming apathetic because it’s better to be numb than dumb.

Student feelings and beliefs about being stupid have gone unchecked in most of our schools and classrooms. But once aware that students' learning and experiences are jeopardized by stupid, teachers can take actions to minimize these negative and limiting effects. Some of these actions include discussing stupid in the classroom, helping students identify ways in which they are smart (multiple intelligences), eliminating stupid causing experiences in the school and classroom, and empowering students to be aware of and respond to their feelings of stupid.

author = {Bernabei, P.},
series = {2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2009 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-613-2953-3},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Madrid, Spain},
month = {16-18 November, 2009},
year = {2009},
pages = {5051-5057}}
AU - P. Bernabei
SN - 978-84-613-2953-3/2340-1095
PY - 2009
Y1 - 16-18 November, 2009
CI - Madrid, Spain
JO - 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2009 Proceedings
SP - 5051
EP - 5057
ER -
P. Bernabei (2009) ROADBLOCK TO LEARNING: I AM STUPID, ICERI2009 Proceedings, pp. 5051-5057.