The long held friction between teachers and students is one that has lasted for generations, with both sides frantically pointing fingers at each other's faults. There is the one side with teachers attempting to understand and correct their students behavior and the other side where students continue to grumble about how their teachers "just don't get them."
As the beginning of another school year approaches, students face the dreading reality of putting the sunny, less-stress summer days behind and preparing for the next 10 months of deadlines, papers, homework assignments, tests, grades and teachers that seem to not understand what it's like to be a student in 2014. While some students anticipate the teacher that gives less homework, is humorous, easy-going and fair, other students cross their fingers in hopes of the teacher that will understand and accept them for being quiet.
Who are these students? Well, they're often the ones you didn't know existed, the students who were mistakenly marked absent, the students who listened actively yet felt invisible.
For quiet students, another school year calls for the oh-so-familiar report card comments on participation and the series of unfortunate classroom events they've come to know all too well.
So teachers, listen up. Below are seven things you should know before you judge the quiet student(s) in your class this school year.
1. Being quiet doesn't make us any less smart
Teachers don't understand how frustrating it can get reading the comment, " _____ is a great student but he/she doesn't participate in class."
Remember that still waters run deep. I know that some teachers like to base grades on participation, but if you could only hear all the great ideas we have inside our head, you'd learn that we have some great ideas to share. In fact, we are practically masters of brainstorming.
However, it's difficult for us to master the art of jumping in to a conversation or interrupting. We may not raise our hands as quickly as you want us to or say as much as you wanted us to, but honestly we just like to take our time to process our ideas. Does it even make a difference if we write more than we speak?
2. We are not a problem that you need to solve.
So, we may not have participated on the first day, or the second day or the first three months of school but please don't keep pestering us about when we're going to talk. Sometimes there isn't a reason why we are so quiet, it's just part of who we are. Many people tend to assume that quiet people are stuck in this quiet prison and need to be rescued so that we can enjoy life. I can assure that this is not always the case. We quiet students are quite content with the way we are... until you start pointing out our faults. We often do not need the "help" you are suggesting, we just need your patience and understanding.
3. The feeling that comes with the hearing the phrase, "Speak up! I can't hear you."
It was daunting enough when you caught us off-guard and put us on the spot to answer that question in front of the entire class, so please don't embarrass us any further. We wish you only knew how much effort we put into taking the initiative to speak up.
If you can't hear something we said please help us out, come closer and listen carefully to what we are trying to say. Please don't belittle us in front of a crowd of people because that will do more harm than help.
4. Group projects can get really stressful for us:
Sometimes we're in a class where we don't have any friends and other times you assign us to a group of people whom we do not even know. There's nothing wrong with group work and the benefits are no doubt important for our future, however quiet students are often taken advantage of in group projects. To prevent this from happening, teachers need to assign each person in the group a role, rather than allowing students to assign each other's role.
5. We are not going to speak when we have nothing to say.
Teachers don't understand that quiet students believe that it's not necessary to talk when you have nothing to say. No we are not being rude, it's just that we believe that there's no need to force out a couple of words just for the sake of doing so. You have no idea how much time we spend trying to formulate our speech before we actually say it out loud.
We like taking our time to formulate our thoughts rather than rushing to speak. We hope someday you will understand this.
6. We have a personality.
Teachers, we know you don't see us as the "ideal student," but if you really came to look beyond our quiet ways you'd come to realize that there's much more to us than meets the eye. We are writers, dreamers, creators and a lot of other things you may think we never could be. We'd like to love ourselves for who we are and not grow-up to hate ourselves. Do not treat us any differently. We're normally people who laugh, cry, have crazy obsessions, dislikes and embarrassing moments. Who knows? Maybe we even have more in common with you than you think.
7. Just because we're quiet, doesn't' mean you have to give up on us.
Teachers often assume that it's not worth talking to or getting to know the quiet students because they don't have anything to say hence they don't have potential. However, there are a few teachers, who will take those few extra steps to the back of the classroom to connect with the quiet student rather than judge them from a distance. We quiet students may not say much at first, but trust me we do appreciate you taking the effort.
Teachers and students may not see eye to eye when it comes to most things, but what both sides don't realize is that they could learn a lot from each other. You may ask yourself, " What can I learn from someone who hardly speaks?"
Well, you can learn the importance of active listening. A quality slowly going extinct when so many distractions keep us from being in the moment and truly listening to what someone has to say.
Quiet students hope that someday teachers everywhere will be able to appreciate the uniqueness we bring to the classroom and not make assumptions without really getting to know us.
The word "teacher" is a verb, not a noun. Hence this year, I encourage all teachers to break the barriers that separate them and their students and to create an inviting atmosphere where no student should hold back being themselves for fear of rejection. Teachers should aim to bring an accommodating atmosphere to the classroom where both extroverts and introverts can share their ideas and reach their potential without feeling pressurized. Your students might not thank you in- person, or write it in a card or note, but some day they may express their gratitude in an acceptance speech and thank you for giving the wallflower a chance to shine.
Have you been misunderstood by your teacher? Send me your thoughts.