December 13, 2012

Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety
Performance anxiety (Photo credit: Jen SFO-BCN)
I have performance anxiety since ever. I guess partially because how I was brought up, partially because of my "special" or "different" nature. I pretty much do anything better without supervision. One example is learning driving stick shift car. By all means I am a talented driver, but in the first lesson of stick shift driving given by my friend, in his new car (I had hitherto learned basic driving skills in automatic car with help of another friend) , I was so nervous, and stopped engine every time when I started it. But same day at night, when I was trying on my own car by myself, I "miracally" moved my car out of parking lot at the first attempt. And by that single move, I knew pretty much all the secret about gearshift. After couple of times practices by myself (yes, illegally), I felt I was an experienced driver already. So when another friend checked on me several days later, he was surprised by my performance and said: "you already know how to drive, let's go to highway".

Having such problem, as a teacher, I always try my best not to let my students feel nervous by not staring at their performance all the time, as I fully believe that they could do better if they have more chances to experience the process by themselves. Most students are doing well, no matter I look at them or not, but a few of them do have such "anxiety". One of them is so obvious that whenever she knew I was looking at her direction, she started drawing or painting "nonsense". What's worse is, she doesn't listen. And I know this is not because she can't, but because she could not focus her mind - instead of listening me, she was thinking of how others (especially her father) would think of her if she could understand what I said. Not only she has this problem, she also learned "smartly" to hide it. I don't know how many times she quickly responded my questions/suggestions before I even finished my sentences, or before my points were fully represented. I also notice, her anxiety went worse when his parents was present at classes, which always is the case.

Her father was overall happy with her works but as soon as she did works not so outstanding, he would show his concern, by occasionally standing in front of his daughter, worrying her mistakes. Obviously, more and more, Her father realized my teaching "philosophy" a "little" hard to understand, and implied in conversations that he didn't think it's a good idea to leave students alone. I tried my best to let him understand what I think, but I don't think he could get it.

This student is only 10. She already learned to pretend to be someone else. I know she is trying very hard to be smart and quick learning, as those qualities are what her parents encourage in all possible situations: schools and family or social gathering. That's why she always respond me instantly (or pretend not hearing me at all), regardless she understands or not. Yesterday, I finally told her, while her father sitting somewhere a few yards away: "if you didn't understand me, just ask me again. It's nothing to be ashamed of if you cannot understand your teacher, but it's not good for you to pretend you understand things you do not." I said a little loud, clearly, just to make sure her father heard every word.

Not sure how my straight forward style works, but I am sure these students could do better if their parents do not expect so much from them. I don't doubt these parents' love to their kids (though I do doubt the quality of their love), as I could see they indeed give lots of love to their kids, but sometime I feel, this love, like "tiger mother"'s, mix with high expectation, might do some different kind of damage (if not more) than those child abuses without love, because, with this "love", kids get even more confused.
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