Gaining Confidence in the Classroom
We often associate teachers with high energy, extroverted persona. So, can a shy person be a teacher?
Just because outgoing teachers seem to be student magnets, that doesn’t mean there is not a place for quieter teachers. Some of my most influential (and hence favorite) teachers have been a bit shy.
The secret to being a good teacher (extroverted or introverted) is confidence. It may seem like an oxymoron, but you can be shy (or reserved) and confident at the same time.
Building confidence is not a one-fix solution. Different tactics work better for some people than for others. Regardless of where you are as a teacher, here are a few suggestions to help you continue building confidence in the classroom.
Connect with Students
Few things are more intimidating than teaching a group of strangers. Take the time to get to know your students one-on-one. Look for and find things (sports/activities/colors/seasons) you have in common.
What do they like to do?
What sports teams do they follow?
What is their favorite time of year?
How do they learn?
As you familiarize yourself with the personalities in your classroom, you’ll feel more comfortable. You will naturally build on things you have in common.
Rejuvenate with Alone Time
Introverted individuals rejuvenate or gain energy by spending time alone. Alone time allows them to process the day’s events and conversations, wind down, and let go.
With a busy life packed with students and family members, how does a teacher get any alone time? First, know yourself and don’t sign up for the after-school activities that fill the afternoons and evenings of other teachers. You don’t have to coach a sport, chaperone a dance, or go to the staff lounge to eat lunch with other educators.
When you first get home after work, take time to do an enjoyable activity alone. Doing so will help you decompress and prepare to teach another day.
The Spotlight Effect is Real
The spotlight effect is when a person feels everyone is paying close attention to everything they do or say. If this were true, every mistake you make as a teacher would be obvious to every one of your students.
Hopefully, your students pay attention to what you tell them. However, most of your students aren’t going to closely watch you just to ridicule you: they are watching so they can pass your class!
Furthermore, many students also deal with the anxiety-inducing spotlight effect. They are also fighting the fear that everyone is watching and judging them. That makes them less observant of your quirks and behaviors since they are busy keeping tabs on their own.
“I Don’t Know” is an Acceptable Answer
As teachers, we dislike saying “I don’t know.” We think it discredits our ability. But I had a student tell me this was her favorite answer.
“I don’t know” conveys to students we aren’t going to feed them false information to protect our ego. It tells students that even people who have spent years studying do not know everything about the topic. Many subjects are vaster than students realize because teachers pretend they know everything about it.
Students respect “I don’t know.” Follow up any “I don’t know” with some study and address the class about the question the next day. Students will trust you more if you put in the work to find answers to their questions.
Be Kind to Yourself
What do teachers think of shy students? Would you degrade or think less of a quiet student? No!
So why do you treat yourself that way? Have a compassionate approach to your students and yourself.
Helping Shy Students
Many students feel the same way about interacting with their peers as you do. Work to help them feel more comfortable in their learning environment.
Make it easy for shy students to talk to you without words. Encourage struggling students to place an item on their desk if they need help. Help a quiet student be more involved by asking them to run a simple errand for you.
When they do ask for help, reward them. Questions facilitate learning.
As a student, I was sometimes embarrassed to ask questions. For a shy student, this embarrassment can be detrimental. If students receive a positive response when they ask for help, they will continue to ask questions in the future.
Be empathetic with struggling students. Treat them with the kindness they need to help them open up. Open students are engaged and learning in the classroom.
Teacher Power Cares
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By: Emeline Haroldsen
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Spencer, John. “7 Strategies for Surviving as an Introverted Teacher”. Quietrev. https://www.quietrev.com/7-strategies-for-surviving-as-an-introverted-teacher/
Raypole, Crystal. “12 Tips for Overcoming Shyness (and Embracing Self-Acceptance)”. Healthline. 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/how-to-stop-being-shy
Sager, Jeanne. “10 Ways Teachers can Support Shy Students”. Teachstarter. https://www.teachstarter.com/us/blog/10-ways-teachers-can-support-shy-students-us/