Commentary Coercion is not a Teaching Tactic

“Lauren, tell him to shut up.” My 7th grade English teacher used to say to me. She picked on the quiet kids in each class and would ask them to say things like this to other more extroverted students in class. At first I refuse to do what she said but later after constant coercion during different class periods I gave in. She convinced me to stand on a desk and shout at a classmate and I did.

I was a quiet kid. I never spoke up in large classroom discussions. I wasn’t stupid. I did well in school. I usually got A’s in almost everything. She picked on me because I was quiet but she knew I was intelligent. My good grades came from hard work and reflection. Thinking out loud in front of others did not help me learn because I was too self conscious back then. I thought someone might disagree with me and think less of me. This fear of speaking would prevent me from saying or even thinking of anything intelligent during class. It was only during quiet periods during tests or homework that I was able to answer with any clarity. I normally would think about class discussions long after class was over but I never had an immediate response.

This is quite normal for introverts. Teaching methods should meet the child’s needs not the whim of the teacher. Now even with that said there are ways you can encourage a student to speak up. You can tell them outside of class how you like what they had to say in a paper they wrote and ask them to read it to the class next period. Or you could ask them specifically what they think during a discussion although they did not raise their hand. These are acceptable ways of trying to get a student to talk, but you can’t force someone to change. If you try that you only end up loosing the student’s respect. Once that happens they will never take you seriously, which could affect their desire to continue to achieve high marks in your class.

After I yelled at this kid, I didn’t feel any more confident in myself, if anything thought less of myself, I felt humiliated and manipulated by the teacher. I only felt worse when I told my friends what happened and they said wouldn’t have listened to her. I realized they were right I shouldn’t have stood on my desk and shouted at another student. Not only was it rude, it was self-detrimental and degrading. I had some serious family issues going on back then which was already affecting my self-esteem without my English teacher adding to it. Teachers need to be careful how they address all kinds of students.

I have since gone on to be a writer. I love reading and writing but she made English miserable for me. I might have learned to love writing a lot earlier in life if she didn’t humiliate me. After a while I would be quiet just to spite her. She told me she used to be quiet like me and that I would come out of my shell just like her. I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of thinking she had changed me. Since I didn’t respect her and never wanted to be like her I refused to speak up. It was a power struggle right from the start. She wanted me to see me change but refused to meet me at my level. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for her. I would always be a disappointment to her, because I was introverted. She made me feel like being introverted was a negative thing that I needed to change when in reality it is a personality type.

True I am more talkative now. Some might say “I came out of my shell” but even in college English classes I didn’t speak up very much. I now am writing for a weekly Newspaper as a reporter I need to listen more than talk so I make good use of my tendency to be quiet. I Graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in English Writing and I was successful because of my introverted qualities. I was quiet in class so I took good notes rather than talked to my neighbor, I listened to others with more interest than some students because I wasn’t thinking about what I was going to say next. I read every single book assigned to me in its entirety without the help of Cliff Notes. I did this because I enjoyed spending time alone reading. All things I did because of my personality and my natural proclivity towards the introverted side of the spectrum. I succeed because of my parents, peers, and teachers all except this one- support of my education during the years. If this 7th grade English class been my only experience with English I would never had perused as a career. Teachers should take great care to never humiliate any student. They will never forget it.