Teachers may overlook the shy children in their classroom because it is so easy to do so. They sit quietly at the back of the class doing their work, they are biddable, obedient and quiet, which is more than can be said for many of the children in the class. The more outgoing children in the group often overshadow the shy child and she sometimes disappears in the noise and bustle of the busy school day. Should teachers worry about shy children?
Shyness can be a natural characteristic, but it can also be an alarm call. It can be that a child is scared of authority, because a parent is terribly authoritarian and the child is terrified of all authority. Satisfy yourself that the child has no speech, language, or communication difficulties.
However, shyness usually has no concrete cause and may just be a natural characteristic in that particular child. Having ruled out any concrete cause there are practical ways that teachers can help shy children.
Shyness is terrifying, especially for children, and the most frightening thing in the world is having someone draw attention to you in public. As an adult looking back I know that a particular teacher was trying to help me with my shyness, when she asked me to read my essay to the class, but it was so terrifying, to be put in that position, that I could not open my mouth and fainted. Never suddenly shine a public spotlight on a shy child. There are discreet ways to build a shy child’s confidence, but you must go slowly and carefully, one day at a time. If you do, you will help the child to slowly build the confidence to remove the seemingly insurmountable barriers that shyness builds around shy people.
When marking the shy child’s work, write a little note praising his or her efforts. A little note from the teacher beside a good mark saying, “Excellent work, well done, I am proud of you!” will be high praise to a shy child. It will also remind the child that you notice what they do and appreciate their work and their contribution.
Talk to the parents but do go carefully. Praise the child’s behaviour and manners first in case the parent is a martinet. Shy children usually have shy parents so tread gently. Tell the parent that you want the child to be happy at school, why you are concerned about the child’s shyness and how you are trying to address this.
Give the shy child a responsibility within the classroom. She will do a good job because the teacher trusts her to do so, and the fact that the child knows you trust her to do a particular job will build her confidence.
In lesson areas, where the shy child shines, ask her to help a child who is having difficulty. For example, if the shy child is very good at reading ask her to help another child, who is having difficulty. This gently brings a shy child out. Shy people find it easier to deal with one person than with a crowd and the fact that you trust her to help another child and your belief that she can do so will increase the shy child’s confidence.
Knowing exactly what will happen makes things much easier for a shy child. When you know exactly what will happen, things are easier to control.
A shy child is not a problem child. Shyness is a normal human trait, not a disease or disability. You will never turn a shy child into a chatty outgoing child but, with patience, you can help a shy child to overcome some of the barriers that crippling shyness brings.