Shyness in the Classroom–How to Get the Most Out of Students

Many educators believe that shyness is not a behavioural issue that needs to be addressed immediately, primarily because they are busy settling down other students, including class comedians, attention hogs and those who enjoy disrupting the class just for the sake of disrupting the class.
There are numerous Shyness in the Classroom websites; among them has one of the best definitions of shyness in a classroom: “Shyness is the act of feeling uncomfortable in social situations in ways that interfere with our ability to enjoy ourselves, to perform at the level we're capable of or that cause us to avoid social situations altogether.”
So the question arises: How does one deal with this from a teacher’s perspective? How do you reach these students in a classroom setting?
Following are some ways to do it:
Step 1: Draw the student out in a way that doesn’t trigger a shy response. Do this, for example, by asking the student to pick up or distribute tests of homework assignments, clean the board or carry out other similar tasks. The trick is to match the level of social interaction of a task with the tolerance level of each child.
Step 2: Normalize shyness. This is not difficult as there are myriad cases of famous persons and celebrities who were quite shy in their youth and overcame that shyness as they grew more self-confident. Examples include Tom Hanks, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein. Long lists of persons in this category can be found on the web. Young children embarrassed by their shyness will begin to come out of themselves and shed self-doubts when made aware of how normal they are.
Step 3: Call on them in class in situations where you are confident they will respond positively. Small things first—a compliment, a passing reference, acknowledgment of effort without drawing undue attention—will begin the process of drawing out the child. Later you can move on to structured exercises that will help them interact with you and their classmates.
Step 4: Once the child has responded, fortify this situation by making regular contact with he or she. In a large (and often hectic) classroom it is often too easy or too tempting to view certain students as “quiet zones” or to let the situation persist, and this does a disservice to those students. Involve them; they are part of your classroom and deserve inclusion.
Step 5: When you set up small groups on special projects, take care to give them responsibilities so they simply won’t go along quietly and anonymously. Start by assigning these children to groups with whom they will be comfortable. Regularly change the make-up of groups so that they will be exposed to more of their classmates.
Also, in setting up the classroom, try to sit them near like students so that they can forge relationships on their own. And change the seating plan regularly to expose them to more of their classmates.
Step 6: Pay careful attention to behavior of their peers and classmates; never allow the others to tease or bully shy children for they might withdraw even more. Sometimes it is even possible to enrol these kids in helping to draw out their shy classmates.
Step 7: Establish one-on-one sessions with shy students whenever and wherever possible. If you can do this, then you can begin to get the child to open up about likes and dislikes, favorite subjects, books, movies, TV programs, anything that will get the child to emerge into the limelight, even for only an audience of one. This emotional bond will be a most positive step in drawing out the child.
Step 8: Wherever possible, bring the child’s parents into the relationship and keep them apprised of your efforts and their child’s progress. Positive reinforcement in the home is a most powerful tool. Set developmental goals, a half dozen or so, and that are designed to build assertiveness and forge peer interactions throughout the school year and keep parents in the loop.
And last but not least, make use of any resources available in the school or school district to help you in this quest.

By Adam

August 20, 2014