A classroom can be a place of anxiety for many students. As adults, we know that most of the questions we raise in a professional environment are worth asking, and can probably lead to better processes or outcomes. Students, however, aren’t usually on the same page. If they walk into a classroom with a question, in their minds, they’re the only student who is unclear on a concept.

With nobody raising their hands or asking for clarification, the teacher assumes that everything’s on track, and the next lesson begins. And unfortunately, this solidifies a student’s conclusion: “Oh, man. Everyone understands this stuff but me.”

If that’s the case, then raising one’s hand seems exponentially more difficult. In a classroom setting, many students feel uncomfortable showing their “poker hand,” fearing that they’ll face judgment as a result of not knowing a fact or some piece of foundational knowledge. In other cases, they might feel that their need for clarity might slow everyone else down, causing the teacher and their classmates to respond with irritation.

Our point is that for students, this phobia is extremely real. We see it all the time.

One of our biggest efforts as tutors here at Walker is trying to make the lines of communication as open as possible. We often tell our students, “Stop the lesson at any point if you want it explained another time in a slightly different way. Or another three times. We’re here for you!” From the student’s perspective, our sessions could be the first time they ever feel comfortable approaching a subject that’s quite difficult, or learning how to complete a task “they should have known already.”

In time, our students will become more comfortable asking questions of their own, approaching their teachers after class, and even (*gasp!*) raising their hands to volunteer their thoughts and work. But, in the beginning, it’s easier for us to simply take all of that off the table and create a space where they’re safe and comfortable asking questions and making mistakes.

Once a student’s comfortable and confident at the kitchen table, we move to making them comfortable and confident in the classroom—it’s not as big of a jump as they think!