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Survival Guide for Shy and Quiet Teachers: How to Teach Comfortably and Effectively In Class

Updated on January 29, 2017

On the first days of my teaching job, I was glued to the whiteboard. You would have been forgiven for thinking I had health problems which prevented me from moving freely in the class. My left hand would hold the top-back side of the whiteboard while the right hand would do the writing. If I was writing notes and would be forced to write towards the far-right side of the board, I would let go of my left hand. Once I reached the end I would return to my previous position. Looking at the students was next to impossible. I would teach while my eyes were riveted at the board or at the window facing me. Actually, the window reflected the images of the students. I guess it wasn’t that hard staring at them while teaching.

The point I would begin teaching is the point you would find me at the end of the lesson. The only time I would move is when I was writing notes. It took a month to begin moving freely (not in the real sense). Two months, I was moving easily and freely. The only thing I have never been able to overcome is looking directly at students. My high school English teacher would tell us the class, “Look at me. I will not eat you.” I told a female student who kept staring at me, “Look at the board, don’t stare at me.”

This is my sixth year and I can say I have survived in the teaching profession. Well, this is Benny. A shy, reserved and quiet guy. As a quiet and/or shy person you don’t need to fret teaching students. If you want to become a teacher and you possess any or both of the above qualities, it is very easy to adapt to what can work best for you. During your teaching you can try different techniques to see which works best for you. In the course of the first weeks you will feel unease but in time you’ll be comfortable for you will have known which tactics work best for you.

Here are the different techniques I learned on how to go about teaching comfortably and effectively during my lessons:

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1. You Don’t Have To Shout To Be Heard

My students know I am not good in shouting. Also, my colleagues know that. Currently, I am teaching a class of over fifty students. I bet it sounds like I am supposed to shout on top of my voice. Thus,

First Logic: If I enter the class and students are making noise even after telling them to be quiet, I usually wait for them to do so. I don’t teach just wait. Even during the lesson if they make noise and I tell them and they seem stubborn not to keep silent, I wait. No teaching. I used to shout. The funny thing, at times it didn’t work. On top of that I hated it because I hate talking in a loud voice. When I hear myself shouting, my voice kind of feels funny. It has changed from tenor to alto. I would just stand there looking at no one in particular or make myself busy reading my text or note book until the class kept quiet.

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Second Logic: I would stare at the students who were shouting one by one. It requires you gain courage to do so. I would stare at them until they felt ashamed. Shhhhhh…the class would be silent.

Third Logic: I am a non-native English speaker teaching non-native English students in a non-native English country. The national language is Kiswahili. Either I have begun teaching or in the process; if they are making noise I ask any of the students at the front to help me with a pen. I stare at the one who is speaking then call out his/her name, “James, you have spoken in Kiswahili instead of English.” Then, I jot his/her name on a piece of paper. I call out other five students who were making noise. The whole class goes silent.

Fourth Logic: I speak in a low voice. This forces students to keep silent in order to strain to hear what I am saying. At this point I am pretending I am not affected by their voice. The fact is I am affected and thinking of a million atomic missile ways to use to silence them once and for all during my lessons.

Fifth Logic: I tell my students when you have finished talking tell me. I pretend or actually do the act of reading my books or heading to the exit. Well, they would see who is wasting whose time. They’ll end up quiet.

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Sixth Logic: Targeting the busy noise makers. I would call them at the front and tell them to teach on my behalf. They should say what I said and continue from where I left. I would tell them because you know much than me the reason you’re making noise then teach. I would distance myself. Another tactic was calling them at the front and telling them to motivate me to continue standing as a result of their standing with me at the front. Last one, I would tell them to come with their chairs at the front.

2. Roaming Freely

You don’t have to be static. You don’t need to be glued like a president giving a speech. It ends up in making students to become bored of you. It becomes monotonous. But, then again, you don’t need to become like a preacher moving so often from left to right, front to the back. It becomes exhausting. Even the students will lose concentration. Their concentration will be on your movements. You need to balance. Don’t move a lot in the class. Don’t stay at one place for a long time.

Your moving will help you in several ways: it will reduce the tension you feel. At times while teaching you might notice yourself stammering. You don’t like people staring at you. So, when you look at a student and he is staring at you, you lose your courage or end up stammering or feeling nervous. Moving helps you to regain courage. Also, it aids in forcing the students who are making noise to keep quiet.

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3. Throw Glances

Whether you want it or not, you’ll have to look at your students while teaching. You know the importance of eye contact. It is something you cannot avoid at all.

The only way I have found to go around this is by throwing fleeting looks. You look at a student for three seconds or so then look at another one then go back to looking at your blackboard, at the door, at the window or back of the class; then throw another quick look and at the end of the lesson you can be proud you made eye contact. In the long run, you’ll have developed the attitude of staring at them without flinching.

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4. Joke Around

Yah, don’t be stone-faced the whole of the lesson. Don’t look gloomy. During my first days in the class I was always stone-faced. Not joking. I wasn’t in fact teaching. I was lecturing. In fact, later my students told me it would have been better if I had applied for a lecturing position in a university. I would lecture the whole topic or concentrate so much on writing on the board till the end of the lesson. In time, my lecturing came to an end (not really). Since I like reading a lot (of which I read quickly), I always tend to talk quickly. I have minimized (somehow).

It is the students who made me to begin joking or humoring here and there. By nature, I am funny. However, I find it hard to be funny around strangers or someone who is domineering. In time when I got used to them, one or two jokes usually pass out of my lips.

Joking helps in relaxing your nervousness. You feel at ease when students laugh. You know a smile and a laugh goes a long way in aiding in relaxation of your mind. Even if you are not funny, rummage around for jokes which are beneficial or not insulting. You’ll end up feeling relaxed.

5. Get angry

Yah, not a volcanic-type of anger. Some of us are not hot-tempered. For those of us who are, balance it. We do know in some situations students can make us angry. But, you should be careful not to burst out with a torrent of words which in their nature are words you should never have uttered. At times you have to fake you are angry. You know, fake it until it becomes real.

You know at times you might feel defeated what to do. This is the case when it comes to controlling the class. You aren’t angry just defeated. At times you have to fake you are angry. I approach a student who is making noise; stare at his eyes and say, “Why do you always make noise? Don’t you see you’re disturbing other students including me by ‘killing’ the concentration? Do you think this is a market?” Or, I would direct fake-angry statements to the whole class. It works.

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