So Renata is a puzzle. She spent a lot of time in the beginning of the year comparing me unfavourably to her previous teacher, with some justification in that her previous teacher was the highly skilled rector of our school. She also seemed a little slow of understanding, taking more time and explanation to grasp concepts than many other children.
But then the marks came in. Renata gets, these days, tens.
I would love to say it is down to my superior teaching skills, but it is a least partly down to the rigid, high standards she applies to herself and those around her. Once the pressure of judging and dealing with the changeable nature of the world lets up, once she can concentrate on a maths test, she shines.
The prophecies are a problem though, one that I do battle with every time we meet. She will say "I don't understand this. I cannot understand this" and I have to jump in quickly before the letterbox of understanding snaps shut. I have to step up before her prophecy becomes truth.
I try to curve round her certainties, the way I was taught to absorb and redirect an attack in Aikido. "Let's look at the first part. Let's see what we can already write down. Can we do a simpler version of the problem?" Contradicting her would not help (in a head-on-clash we would both lose) but tempting her to try a process, to have an approach with starts up when she does not see the answer directly, might. She is one of those quick-thinking children that have not failed often enough to be comfortable with it. My job is to get her comfortable with error and retry, with the messy but scientific business of solving the hard stuff.