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Social Anxiety in Students
Social Anxiety in Students280
I just read a very good blog post one that should
give educators cause to reflect. I suggest you read it.
William Chamberlain poses the following questions:
What are you doing in
your classroom for kids like me that some days are
barely hanging on until they can get back home where
they can relax?
Have you actively sought out the quiet kids or the
ones that dont seem to make friends and spend a
few minutes with them?
If you go out of your way to make them more
comfortable, they will be more successful in your
Looking at these questions
reminded me of a student I had in History 12. Lets
refer to him as Jon.
Jon hadnt been very successful in previous Social
Studies classes, but he wanted to take part in History
12. His attendance was good, he scored approximately 60%
on most assessments and he NEVER contributed to the
conversation. When it came time for presentations or
group work he disappeared. At first I didnt figure
it out, but soon it became apparent that he knew what we
were up to and as soon as I was about to return to my
normal lecture format he would miraculously reappear.
Once I tried to get tough and I attempted to
force him into taking on a speaking role in our Holocaust
Coroners activity, but he did not want to play a role and
rather left me a note. I have kept it
Mr. Dueck you are a good teacher and I really like
your class. You seem like a nice guy and I love the
material. I will not however, be taking part in any
public presentations. It does not matter what you say or
I wont do it. Nothing on earth scares me
more than speaking in front of others. If you force me to
do it, I will probably end up telling you to F*** Off,
you will be forced to react to my comment, and we will
all be worse off for it. I will just avoid class until it
is all over and you can give me a zero. - Jon
I went home and shared this with my spouse who is not a
teacher, and she leveled with me as well, explaining that
her worst days of high school, without a doubt, were the
public presentation days. You guys [teachers] get
up in front of people all the time, everyday - you just
dont get it.
The next day I found Jon, nowhere near my classroom or
the library where the rest were researching their
presentations, and I asked if he cared to do a personal
project on his days off. He jumped at the chance and I
told him that regular classes would resume on Monday.
After the weekend he was in his usual seat as predicted,
the imminent threat had passed.
A few weeks later I noticed him doodling on his desk and
instead of ripping into him about graffiti, I asked if I
could buy him a sketchbook. The resulting collection of
artwork, a day-to-day account of our material as seen
through the eyes of an artist, is a book I cherish to
I see Jon from time to time and I carry his sketchbook to
nearly all of my presentations. Jon taught me a few
things, or at least entrenched what I had suspected:
It is my job to lower stress and anxiety in the
classroom, not exacerbate it.
I was the dictator in my classroom and the keeper
of the gate when it came to who could demonstrate
knowledge, how it would be done and when. The avenues in
which I allowed a student to display knowledge would
directly impact the extent to which he or she was able
Learning is number one, engagement is critical, the
method is malleable. Let students, Show what they
It is all about relationships.
ps. Today Jon is a successful artist and lover of all
Respect | Empathy
Caring | Listening
Other EQI.org Topics:
Invalidation | Hugs
Parenting | Personal
Library and Bookstore
7 Responses to Social Anxiety in Students
March 1, 2011 at 4:50 pm289
I am humbled that you thought enough of my post to write
one of your own. I dont think there is any better
praise than to have someone say they were inspired by
something I wrote.
I am really surprised Jon could explain himself so well.
I didnt even know I had a problem in high school,
let alone be able to verbalize it. Thank you for sharing
March 2, 2011 at 10:06 pm292
You opened a great conversation piece and one that is
long overdue. I applaud your courage and candour to let
people know that you face the hurdle of anxiety. Our
students and colleagues need to know we too are human.
I too was surprised that Jon was as thoughtful and
eloquent as he was. It was indeed an eye-opening
March 1, 2011 at 6:34 pm295
What a beautiful post. Your lessons learned pave the way
to #4; its about the relationship. What a wonderful
gift he has given you.
Your story reminds me of a student I have in my gr. 7/8
class. Last year, she arrived mid-way through the year, a
shy gr. 7 girl who tiptoed her way through the day. When
it came time for the annual oral presentation, like Jon,
she refused. Instead, she agreed to say her speech in
front of me and a few of her friends only. She did great.
This year, I expected the same, and was quite willing to
do so. Instead, on her scheduled day, she got up in front
of everyone, and read her speech. No, she didnt get
the top mark, but she showed the most growth of her
peers. Her comfort amongst her peers had increased, and
by letting her choose the method, she tasted success.
Like Jon, she gave me a gift Ill not forget.
March 2, 2011 at 10:04 pm298
Thanks Heather. I guess we as teachers are often
pre-wired to put kids through the ringer because that is
what happened to us. Congratulations it would
appear that you offered the girl in your class an
environment that was safe, accessible and welcoming; it
should not come as a surprise that she responded so
favourably to it.
July 11, 2011 at 2:40 pm300
Great strategies Myron! Your presentations and writing
style reminds me of a powerful book that guided me into
the field of elementary education: Starting From Scratch
by Steven Levy. (now several years old but the emotional
message remains just as strong today)
August 9, 2011 at 8:36 am303
Thanks Scott. I wish I had more time to write it
seems to always take a back seat to early everything
else. I will look up that book.
August 15, 2011
Just happened to stumble upon your blog, but Im
truly impressed by what Ive read here. Youve
provided a strong model for educational empathy.
Ive suffered from social anxiety most of my life,
and I dont know how I would have gotten through
school were it not for those teachers who saw through
(even if they failed on some levels to understand) my
difficulties, established a relationship with me, and
wanted me to succeed.
Thanks for making a difference; the Jons of
the world need more teachers like you.
The views expressed on
this site are those of Myron Dueck and do not necessarily
reflect those of Penticton Secondary or School District
67. Neither do the views and opinions expressed on this
site reflect those of the partner groups with whom Myron
Dueck is associated.