Kevin Brennan         651-308-4876


Student Disengagement: What to Do When Students Feel Stupid in School?


Top 20s Develop Potential in Their Students and Themselves


Stages of Potential: Thinking, Learning and Communicating


Top 20” = Effective TLC                  “Bottom 80” = Ineffective TLC



Top 20s Keep Stupid in the Box


  1. Equal Sign lets ‘stupid’ out of the box: ‘It means I am…’


  1. Reactions to Feeling Stupid:
  2. Withdraw: quit + quiet
  3. Pretend
  4. Emotional: embarrassed, angry, upset, sad, worry, nervous, stress
  5. Judgments: I’m not good enough; I don’t know anything; I’m bad at everything; I am stupid
  6. Attack: argue, swear, challenge, bully
  7. Defensive: judge (“This is stupid…you’re stupid.”)
  8. Motivate
  9. Numb: being numb is better than dumb


  1. 5 Causes of Stupid


  1. Called: stupid, dumb, idiot; laughed at; non-verbals


  1. Comparison: others are better; I’m not good enough


Comparison à Stupid                         Comparison à Learning



  1. Confusion: I don’t know; I don’t get it


Mountain of Learning: “I don’t get it.” à Confusion à “AHA, I get it.”


Confusion Rocks: Everything we know or can do today we were once confused about.


Confusion is a natural and necessary part of ALL learning.


  1. Can’t: failure, mistakes


  1. Certain situations: class, activity, needing help




  1. Unequal Sign: ‘It doesn’t mean I am…’


  1. Teacher Tips for Keeping Stupid in the Box:
  2. Initiate professional conversations among faculty to:

(1) become aware of stupid and                                                                                                                                                                              (2) consider ways to reduce student experiences of stupid.

  1. Make stupid part of the curriculum:                   (1) Share personal experiences of feeling stupid.                                                                                                                             (2) Teach the 5 causes of stupid.

(3) Explain how ‘comparison’ can lead to learning.                                                                                                                                      (4) Explain the importance of ‘confusion’ in learning.

(5) Stress the value of failure and mistakes to learning and growing.

  1. Be aware of when stupid might appear: (1) Have a large EQUAL SIGN in your room and refer to it in situations where someone                                                          might                be feeling stupid.

(2) Every few weeks ask students if they have felt stupid.

(3) Ask students if they have felt stupid by any of your verbal or nonverbal communication.

  1. Empower students with the UNEQUAL SIGN.
  2. Help students discover how they are smart.
  3. 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 _____.”







Action Plan: What have you become aware of that you now want to…


















Top 20 Training provides materials and in person and online training for Students, Educators, and Parents.


Top 20 Books:       Top 20 Teens: Discovering the Best-kept Thinking, Learning and Communicating Secrets of                                                                 Successful Teenagers                                                                                                                                                                                                   Top 20 Teachers: The Revolution in American Education
                                                                                                                                                  Top 20 Parents: Raising Happy, Responsible and Emotionally Healthy Children

                                    Why Students Disengage in American Schools and What We Can Do about It


                  Teacher Manuals for grades K-6, 3-6 and 7-12 include detailed lesson plans and handouts to assist teachers in

presenting Top 20 topics to students.


Top 20 Buttons: Colorful buttons of Top 20 phrases created by students with special needs.