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Go to war for the introverts?

(106 Posts)
PiqueABoo Fri 04-Dec-15 11:50:25

Naturally cheerful Y8 DD has been saying she “hates” school a lot this week and for her that's new and troubling.

That is because we’ve had another parents’ evening where despite some pleasant comments, the most common critical message has been that she must participate more in the classroom in order to improve in their subject. The presentation of that message in the child's presence has ranged from sensitive to jaw-droppingly brutal.

The assertion is absurd because she is one of their very highest academic performers who is constrained by the pace of the teaching and assessment, not by her failure to be an in-class attention-seeking Hand-Up girl.

I. Am. Sick. And. Bloody. Tired. Of. It.

If it's like this for DD then $deity help the ones with less shiny academic performance because they can't obtain the same certainty about what does or doesn't affect their performance in school-stuff.

So what to do? I'm simmering, want to shove a mountain of the system's sanctimonious platitudes about inclusion/diversity down their throats until they choke on them, surrender and stop expecting every child to conform to a specific shallow stereotype. But if they have the wit to absorb the message they wouldn’t need one in the first place, so that would probably be futile.

patterkiller Fri 04-Dec-15 11:59:28

I have two dcs both very reserved in the classroom and had it shoved down my neck every parents evening. At the same time same teachers are telling me that there are some big characters in the class. So what do they want? All big characters? I think not.

My stock answer is Dds are not shy they do however value quality of speech rather than quantity.

Russellgroupserf Fri 04-Dec-15 12:02:50

If she plans to go to University she will be expected to join in with discussions and give presentations. So while I do get your annoyance in the department I worked in some marks were based purely on these aspects. So better now than when chucked in to that environment.

The teachers shouldn't have been brutal in their statements but I imagine we will all have different ideas as to what constitutes brutal.

I write this an introvert myself.

patterkiller Fri 04-Dec-15 12:14:13

My Dds are great at presentations and debate, they don't however enjoy the me me me aspect of some children in school and sit back and go unnoticed sometimes. They know how and when to step up they just won't shout to be heard.

dodobookends Fri 04-Dec-15 12:16:33

Pique totally with you on this one.

AgonyBeetle Fri 04-Dec-15 12:16:42

In many countries pupil assessment is based far more on presentations than it is here, so I think the UK is just starting to catch up in that regard.

Tbh I think being able to present your ideas verbally and contribute to discussion is an important life skill, so if your child finds it difficult, you should be looking at ways to support her in developing those skills rather than raging at the school.

It's not about being an introvert versus extrovert, it's about learning and practising different communication methods. I have a similar-aged dd who will happily talk fluently and articulately in front of any size of crowd, but really struggles with writing. So we keep looking at ways of helping her develop writing speed and accuracy, because she needs to get better at it. The school would think I was bonkers if I suggested they stop relying on written assessment just because my child hates it and finds it difficult, yet that's effectively what you are doing wrt spoken presentations.

Brytte Fri 04-Dec-15 12:29:04

I feel for you OP. My Y8 DD's school report is due and I am expecting to read similar things to what your DD heard, if last year is anything to go by. I think schools have moved on a long way since my school days and children are much more used to speaking out and doing presentations throughout primary school. However, it can be more difficult for more reserved children to speak out in class during teenage years, unless they are called upon by the teacher. I often wonder what they want me to do about it. If she's not speaking enough in class, then call upon her to give an answer and she will speak.

dodobookends Fri 04-Dec-15 12:38:35

It's all very well saying that, but the way this is tackled by the school is crucial. If the child's worries or lack of participation is dismissed or belittled, and they are just told to get on with it, then this can be counter-productive.

If you have the experience of having a dc who becomes frantic and completely panics at the mere thought of having to stand up and speak aloud in front of people (trembling, tears, throat closing up, feeling sick, terrified) it isn't all that easy to deal with.

When something like this isn't handled sensitively at the outset than it can have long-term disastrous consequences.

dodobookends Fri 04-Dec-15 12:40:31

Sorry Brytte, wasn't responding to your post, but to AgonyBeetle

purpledasies Fri 04-Dec-15 12:40:40

She sounds very like my DSD - who gets told this at every parents evening and in every report. Her written work is good, and she is generally following what's being said in class, but she's afraid of getting things wrong and is therefore reluctant to put her hand up. She's at a school full of bright, confident kids which probably doesn't help.

I agree with you that it's not useful for teachers just to tell a child like that to contribute more in class. DSD has been told that for years and it doesn't seem to have helped at all. I would have thought it be more useful for the teacher to find ways of helping shyer children contribute - eg get them working in small groups (when DSD will contribute, as long as there aren't any very dominant personalities in her group), presenting something they've pre-prepared to the class, etc. As a parent you can try and talk through why she doesn't put her hand up more, and see if you can help her find ways to overcome the shyness. Teachers do need their pupils to contribute in class because that's how a lot of the learning is done - so if they all sit there in silence the teacher doesn't know if they're listening/understanding/etc. They also learn from listening to each other.

I do think it sets you back in life if you aren't prepared to speak in front of a group. Just saying "well she's an introvert, that's what she's like" isn't helping. But it's about finding the best ways to deal with the situations she finds challenging, not just being told off for it.

dodobookends Fri 04-Dec-15 12:54:02

Being naturally quiet and reserved, and afraid of putting your hand up in case you get the answer wrong is where it starts.

What can follow is an ever-increasing cycle of worry and tension, you become so worried about it that you fluff it when it's your turn. That makes you even more scared for the next time. You throat closes up, you go red, tremble, can't get the words out. You feel like you have made a fool of yourself in front of everyone, and are even more frightened by the prospect of it happening again. Because you get so worked up, each time it gets worse and worse until you develop an abject fear of it.

Potterwolfie Fri 04-Dec-15 12:54:22

Sounds just like DS. How do we encourage a child who, according to his form tutor after a few weeks in year 7, 'uses his love of reading as a mask so he doesn't need to interact', to get involved and participate?

We always encourage him to order for himself in restaurants, buy stuff in shops, interact with adults and friends/family and he is getting better/more comfortable, but new surroundings are tough for him. Obviously I'm not in the classroom to gently prompt hoping his teachers can find ways to help him and also see his ability, not regard his shy, quiet nature as ignorance or inability. It's something I think/worry about on a daily basis.

ppandj Fri 04-Dec-15 13:11:58

I think there should be more opportunities for your DD to participate without it being hands up in front of the whole class. Work in pairs or small groups for discussion would be better.

I do think it's important that children learn a balance though. She sounds like she is very bright with valuable things she could share with other pupils- if given the opportunity. In the same way, very extrovert people have to learn to let others have input. It works both ways. This teamwork is such a valuable life skill!

aginghippy Fri 04-Dec-15 13:15:39

Get in touch with her head of year. Say you are concerned because dd is starting to say she hates school, that's something new and it is troubling you. Try to frame it in a problem-solving way. Don't shove anything down her throat grin

The school need to think of some other strategies for enabling dd to speak up in class. Just telling her she needs to participate more obviously isn't working hmm

slicedfinger Fri 04-Dec-15 13:16:44

We had this about DD2 at her recent parent consultation. What really got my goat was when more than one teacher said that they were grateful that she always put her hand up, and had correct answers for, the difficult questions, but that she needed to participate more in the easy questions too.

dodobookends Fri 04-Dec-15 13:17:21

Potter, the only thing I can suggest, is that you ask the teacher not to pick him out of a crowd to answer a question when he hasn't put his hand up. It is genuinely terrifying when this happens, and you sit in fear and trembling throughout the whole lesson in case it happens.

This used to happen to me all the time. I was incredibly self-conscious and although I knew the answer to the teacher's question, I was afraid to put my hand up. The teacher knew I knew the answer, and would ignore all the hands-up children and make me answer. I was forever petrified.

Try and get the teacher's agreement that, on the rare occasion your DS is confident enough to put is hand up, that then and only then is he asked. If your ds is reassured that he won't get chosen unless he wants to be, it will take some of the pressure off.

kjwh Fri 04-Dec-15 13:27:36

Yep, been there myself and getting the same from the teachers for my son. In my case it wasn't about not knowing, it was some unfathomable fear of getting it wrong that literally meant I'd rather sit there and pretend I didn't know the answer, and be ridiculed for not knowing, even when asked directly, rather than give an answer and be ridiculed for being wrong. Crazy, I know, but some kids do have "issues", not helped by the way some teachers approach things.
Now, it's happening with my son, and yes, I'm bloody annoyed with the way the teachers deal with it.
Some teachers are fine, they tell me his puts his hand up, they tell me he seems happy and confident to answer.
Other teachers tell me he kind of cowers in the corner, never puts his hand up, never answers if asked.
He's getting top marks in all subjects and glowing reports as to behaviour, so the only difference is the teacher.
Last year, he got glowing reports for French, reports said he contributes well in class. This year, his first report was entirely about lack of contribution in class - so it's not even the subject - IT'S THE TEACHERS!!!
I've asked my son, and he is adament that it's the way the teacher ridicules the kids who get things wrong!
If he was withdrawn in all subjects, I'd agree it was a problem with him, but it's clear it's just for a few teachers, so it's the teachers who have the problem, and I'm bloody well going to tell them so next time they bring it up!

Potterwolfie Fri 04-Dec-15 13:42:40

Thanks dodo, that strategy sounds eminently sensible. DS has self confidence, just not outward confidence, if that makes sense? He's doing extremely well grades, behaviour and effort wise, it just seems that some teachers see shyness/introversion in kids as a problem to be fixed rather than a personality type to be accommodated, just like any other. We don't want him to change, or feel that he's wrong to be the way he is, though if course we see the need to integrate and participate.

We know from experience that it takes DS a long time to feel truly comfortable to be able to open up, and that needs to be respected and not forced.

Wryip11 Fri 04-Dec-15 13:48:46

If this happened to me I would skip the parents' evenings. My dcs happiness is more important than the school ticking boxes.

Peregrina Fri 04-Dec-15 13:52:58

As one who was considered shy myself at school, but also happens to enjoy giving presentations, I wonder if you can turn this round the next time it comes up. Teacher: DC needs to contribute more in class.... You: And why is this a problem....?

aginghippy Fri 04-Dec-15 13:58:52

Yes Peregrina, exactly. Why is this a problem? and What are you doing to address this problem?

purpledasies Fri 04-Dec-15 14:02:30

I don't think "why is that a problem?" is a good question to ask. It's a problem for the DC - who's going to be limited in life if they get paniced and nervous about speaking in public. And it's a problem for the teacher who can't guage whether the class are interested and following what's going on.

What are you doing to address the problem? is a much better question.

TeddTess Fri 04-Dec-15 14:15:36

there's a big difference between "me me me" kids and those who just keep their head down and don't participate at all.
maybe the teachers need the bright kids to speak up to shut up those just looking for airtime.
but i am sure good teachers have techniques to achieve this. maybe ask them how they encourage the quiet shy ones to speak up?

Peregrina Fri 04-Dec-15 15:57:33

It's a problem for the DC - who's going to be limited in life if they get paniced and nervous about speaking in public.

But we can't tell if that is the problem with OP's DD. There is a big difference between being someone who is afraid to speak up and someone who just doesn't find it all that necessary to speak up all the time i.e. who isn't the one with their hand up going 'me, me, me'.

To me it sounds as though they are criticising the DD's basic personality, rather than it being something which is holding her back.

purpledasies Fri 04-Dec-15 16:18:18

I don't think the teachers are saying she should be going me me me all the time are they? hmm The OP says her DD is bright - so presumably knows the answers much of the time, but doesn't speak up much because she's naturally an introvert. If she won't answer questions or put her hand up to tell the teacher if she's not understanding something the teacher isn't going to be able to teach her as well. And later in life, if she doesn't find ways of overcoming her shyness she'll not contribute much to meetings or discussions at work, which could potentially limit her opportunities.

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