Confrontations are not fun.  It may come as a surprise to those of you who avoid them at all costs (as do most women I know) but no one really enjoys them.  When I know I must have one, I put it off.  I use the excuse that I want to make sure I have enough time for the conversation, that all my thoughts are together, etc., but the truth is, I just don't want to do it.

The surprising thing, for me, is that confrontations are rarely as bad as we fear.  Recently I had to confront a mother whose son is coming to me for tutoring.  To put it bluntly, he was not learning.  His progress was extremely slow, almost imperceptible.  I've taught severely learning-disabled kids before, dyslexia, CPD, etc., but I'd never seen anything like this.  He was literally unable to express himself; I would ask him simple questions and he'd sit for several minutes, then say, "I dunno."  He had difficulty putting even the simplest thoughts into words.  I began to wonder whether I could help him at all, whether I was wrong in taking the parents' money.  At the least, I had to tell the mother that we were behind on the syllabus I had made up, and he needed to plan to come for more sessions.

I didn't want to say the words, because I didn't want to insult her or her son, who shows a great interest in learning and is generally a nice kid.  But finally I said very plainly that I had never encountered these specific learning difficulties before and I wasn't sure what to do, but that his progress was very slow and I wasn't sure whether I was helping him.

Nothing could have prepared me for her reaction.  She said her son had a severe hearing problem, so major that his doctor compared his comprehension to that of an English language learner.  He had always had severe difficulties in writing, and coupled with low self-esteem (probably because of said hearing problem) it was hard for him to accept help from others.  Teachers had always maintained that he wasn't trying hard enough and was "doing fine," so she was glad to see that I understood the problem and relieved that I was willing to help him with it.

Of course, it would have been nice to know about this before I had started with the student; it would have saved me a lot of frustration!  But I think I needed to learn this lesson.  Honesty, first.