The Quiet Kids

I recently received this link via my mom, who identified as a quiet student. She reminded me that I was quiet, too. The article suggests teachers think about quiet students and takes a few positions—seven in fact. She also writes:

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.

  1. Being quiet doesn’t make us any less smart.
  2. We are not a problem that you need to solve.
  3. The feeling that comes with [the] hearing the phrase, “Speak up! I can’t hear you.”
  4. Group projects can get really stressful for us.
  5. We are not going to speak when we have nothing to say.
  6. We have a personality.
  7. Just because we’re quiet, doesn’t mean you have to give up on us.

I thought I’d weigh in because I don’t agree with everything she says.

First, teacher is a noun.

Second, on problems needing solving. I agree with this, because I know some people are naturally extroverted and some are naturally introverted. You can move in and out and beyond those labels, however, too. If a student is so quiet that their thoughts are never heard or their opinions never voiced, then that’s a problem. We can help students, and it doesn’t necessarily mean we make them into loud, outspoken students.

Third, if a student is a soft talker, and they cannot hear, we might want to be sensitive to why they are soft talkers, but at some point we have to develop their communication skills. Aside from a comedy sketch on Seinfeld, sometimes there are situations where we have to step out of our comfort zones.

Fourth, group projects can be stressful for some, and not a preferred method for learning. Yet learning to work with others is an important skill. Teachers should encourage group projects, but be sensitive that some students need help transitioning to this style of work. Using self-selecting groups or groups composed with students with similar interests, learning styles, or learning preferences, might be a good idea.

Fifth, our teachers should set a classroom climate where students can speak and be heard when they have something to say. Sometimes this may not be out loud, but through private journaling, online discussions, or in group discussions that are less intimidating. Students should be encouraged to take positions, to think critically, and we need to develop these skills. And yes, not talking a lot isn’t a sign of danger or concern.

Lastly, I hope no teacher would give up on a student because they don’t hear a lot from them in class. Instead, I know our teachers know how important it is to develop strong relationships with kids and in that, we have to remember that each relationship will be unique and develop on its own velocity vector. We might really connect with some students through talking, through an online chat, through glances and praise, or through written feedback. I’m probably leaving out at least half a dozen other ways we can begin to establish positive relationships with students to show that we care, we want to help them with their goals in life and in school, and that the way they are–either quiet or even exceedingly talkative–is just fine.