your students aren't stupid, you're just stressed

Since the 1960s psychology researchers have known that people tend to make social judgments with a consistent bias: We’re more likely to attribute someone’s behavior to inherent personality traits than to the particulars of the situation. The guy who bumps into me on the sidewalk did so because he’s a dumb jerk, not because he’s rushing to the hospital to see his sick child. The driver is slow because she’s a feeble old lady, not because her engine is stalling.  Virginia Hughes

The article goes on to investigate the effect of stress on our tendency to this bias, called the fundamental attribution error.  Not surprisingly, stress increases this error.  The author makes the point that police officers and jurors in particular need to have fewer sources of stress in order to make appropriate judgments, but I would say teachers fall in this category too.  Will a stressed teacher say, "this student just can't succeed" or "that student doesn't have the ability" where a less stressed teacher would be more understanding?  In whose classroom will a student find a supportive learning environment?  

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