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I'm a mathematics and physics tutor. I have a student in grade 9 who is very weak in the scientific subjects and she's been weak since 2 or 3 years even though she always had tutors.

At first I thought she only have some gaps to bridge but the main problem turned out to be psychological. She is constantly criticized from her teachers, her friends and even her parents and she treated as if she have a lower level, as if she doesn't have logic, as if she can't do what the rest of the class is doing. Now, after 2 or 3 years of such cumulative influence, she's very convinced that she can never be good in these subjects. I talked to her a couple of times, she's totally convinced that she can never get more than the average (I know she can easily). For the last 2 weeks, every time she have a test in a scientific subject she gets sick. I thought it was a coincidence but after skipping 4 tests due to sickness, I knew that her psychological state is producing the negative biological effects. She says that she's not afraid of taking tests but on the other hand I know she has some psychological problems with tests.

How should I deal with her?

  • Should I create an environment similar to the atmosphere of the test at her school? If yes, should I be acting as her friendly tutor or as her strict teacher at school while she's doing the sample test? Is this idea useful or that when she begin the test at her school, she'll forget whatever I did with her?
  • She can't concentrate when she's working with a group of students even worse in class. Should I be ok with her working in private with me and not understanding anything in class (at her school) or should I be constantly pushing her to get used to working in large groups?
  • How can I boost her self-confidence? She very comfortable with me and she said that I'm the best teacher she had in many years but how can I convince her that her grades will increase as a result of increasing her self-confidence and not the other way around (that is she shouldn't wait to get high grades to gain self-confidence)?

Thank you

share|improve this question
This is an interesting question, but it is a bit too specific for our site (hence several people are voting to close). Can you reframe it as a general question about teaching or students? – Jeromy Anglim Nov 23 '13 at 1:24
As for everything, this problem must be fixed at its source. Find those who criticize her and force them to give her back her confidence. – user2534 Nov 23 '13 at 2:21
@user2534 I can't be with her 24h/24h. I spoke to her parents to not compare her with her sister but I can't force her friends and teachers. – whatever Nov 23 '13 at 11:19

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