Roadblock to Success: I AM STUPID!


  1. Equal Sign lets ‘Stupid’ out of the box


  1. Reactions to Feeling Stupid:


  1. Withdraw: quit + quiet
  2. Pretend
  3. Emotional: embarrassed, angry, upset, sad, worry, nervous, stress
  4. Judgments: I’m not good enough; I don’t know anything; I’m bad at

everything; I am stupid.

  1. Attack: argue, swear, challenge, bully
  2. Defensive: judge (“This is stupid…you’re stupid.”)
  3. Motivate
  4. Numb: being numb is better than dumb


  1. 5 Causes of Stupid


  1. Called: stupid, dumb, idiot; laughed at; non-verbals
  • “When I say something and others say it’s stupid or someone says something and I don’t know what they mean and they call me stupid…I get mad.”
  • “Every night my dad tells me I’m stupid…I wish I could leave.”


  1. Comparison: others are better; I’m not good enough
  • “When I am taking CSAPs and am one of the last people taking the test…I rush through it and don’t read the questions or answers.”
  • “When some of my friends brag about their grades…I tell them my grades are good then think to myself, ‘Oh, I’m stupid.’”


  1. Confusion: I don’t know; I don’t get it
  • “When guys are talking about stats and football and I have no idea what they’re talking about… I usually just don’t talk or I pretend I know what they are talking about.”
  • “In school when I don’t know the answer…Pretend, blush, don’t raise my hand as much.”


  1. Can’t: failure, mistakes
  • “When I strike out in a baseball game…I feel that I’m not good at baseball and I’ll probably strike out again.”


  1. Certain situations: class, activity, needing help
  • “In any class when I read…I get mad at myself.”



  1. Teacher Tips for Keeping Stupid in the Box:


  1. Initiate professional conversations among faculty to (a) become aware of stupid and (b) consider ways to reduce student experiences of stupid.


Make stupid part of the curriculum:                                                                                                                .           Share personal experiences of feeling stupid.

Teach the 5 causes of stupid.


  1. Be aware of when stupid might appear: Have a large EQUAL SIGN in your room and refer to it

when and where someone might be feeling stupid.

  1. Every few weeks ask students if they have felt stupid.
  2. Ask students if they have felt stupid by any of your verbal or

non-verbal responses.


  1. Empower students with the UNEQUAL SIGN.


4 Practice the script:


“I am smart. I just don’t understand _______________ yet.”


“I am smart. I’m just confused about _________________.”


“I am smart. I just can’t ____________________________.”


For more information on Top 20 materials or on-site trainings,

see Tom Cody for a brochure and business card.


Our Mission

Top 20’s primary goal is to revolutionize education in America by helping students become more engaged in school and providing teachers with a new way of seeing themselves as relevant educators in the 21st century.

In addition, because it uses common language, easily understood concepts and practical tools for dealing with everyday situations and problems, Top 20 can have a profoundly positive effect on any organization, from business to government to healthcare, enhancing relationships and experiences for all.

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