At times, it’s easy to feel confident to stand in front of a group of people and play the clown, discuss a topic or ask questions to clarify things. You feel that you are in control of the situation, you own your thoughts and words and you have the confidence to seek clarification without feeling a fool. I have never been cursed with being shy – sometimes that in itself is a curse, but that’s a story for another time….
In my class this year, I have a number of students who are so quietly spoken that I must demand absolute silence in the classroom in order to hear their voices. I am working on many ways to help them build their confidence – starting with the fact that we all value their contributions!
To balance the quiet ones, there are always the loud ones. The ones whose hands are up at any given moment – whether or not they have considered what they are going to say… (!) and the ones who feel that their voice should be heard regarding anything and everything. This is not a bad thing, just such a contrast!! I think I was one of these students at school – nope, actually – I’m sure I was.
One boy in my class was “sharing” with the rest of the class a couple of weeks ago, and he was telling us about an adventure type course he’d completed on the weekend. He started out fairly confidently (as he’s one of my big contributors) but even with his high level of confidence, he was “testing the waters” with the class, and how they were reacting to his story. The story began quite realistically – based on fact, but as he progressed, he found that he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand: laughing when things were funny, nodding appreciatively, gasping in anticipation…
This confident 7 year old soon found himself embellishing the facts, exaggerating events and basically converting himself into the role of a super-human child. My favourite line of his was “I was running along, and then I think, yeah – I did a flip”. The class were cheering and hollering – they loved the story, although I am not sure whether they really bought into the elaborated details – it’s hard to say.
Another girl in my class suffered a fall that resulted in a broken arm recently – and as a result was elevated to “legend status” in all of Year 3. She was one of the quietest girls in the class, and now everyone wanted to help carry her bag, be her friend and helper and generally be seen with “the cool girl with the broken arm”. As unfortunate as her broken arm was, I found her surrounded by friends in the classroom and playground, chatting happily and contributing in class. I no longer had to stop the class from talking in order to hear her voice. A strange phenomenon, yes – but in the best way possible.
Now, I am not suggesting that we ask our quiet children to break a limb in order to boost confidence! We will always have a mixture of loud and quiet in the classroom – and that’s important for dynamics in many ways. I only wish that it was possible for the quieter students to have the chance to share more readily and frequently. So my goal is to find ways to incorporate more strategies that don’t necessarily include talking to the class to share our insights – it can be done, and it begins now! Stay tuned for strategies I’m trying – no broken limbs or super human abilities required!
Until next time – try looking yourself in the mirror and saying “hey everybody, come see how good I look!”