You can’t put me in front of the class to talk...
I will freeze, cry, or run out of the classroom. I dread the attention that this places solely on me. My thoughts will begin to spiral out of control:
But you see, I have a solution: If at all possible, consider having a private conversation or allowing me to present just in front of you. Presenting may be a nice challenge for me, but I need to be prepared and an individual discussion prior would be helpful.
I’m not trying to slack by sitting in the back of the classroom...
The idea of others sitting behind me and judging my every move is uncomfortable to me. When I think of all the possibilities, I feel overwhelmingly self-conscious. Sitting in the back of the class allows me to remain focused on you speaking or on the work I am supposed to be completing.
Solution: For this reason, assigned seating is often helpful as it allows me to feel more in control of my surroundings. I can become aware and comfortable with the peers that sit around me and the space I am filling.
My coping skills are not an avoidance...
If you see me drawing, doodling, or fidgeting, I am most likely still completely focused on what you are saying. These are my coping skills which allow me to simultaneously give my attention rather than being stuck with the thoughts in my head.
Solution: If you feel it is a distraction to other peers in the class, a private conversation about how I can do this more discretely might be helpful to both of us.
I prefer independent work...
When working within a group, there are many unknowns. I have expectations for my performance and
that of the overall project. I am unable to control my peers’ efforts and usually fear that they won’t follow through.
Solution: If we have to present as a group, I fear that I will fail my group of peers if I am unable to share
the information that is needed. I then feel like the weak-link and a disappointment, taking on the entire responsibility.
Please don’t call me out in front of the class...
I often know the answer that you are seeking, but putting my words together can be difficult, especially
suddenly. The spotlight is on me and what if I’m not right? If in the case my thoughts were drifting, then yes, I may not have been paying attention. Calling on me would just cause me to stumble or freeze, feeling embarrassed.
I don’t know why I am crying...
The overwhelming thoughts that circulate inside my head makes it difficult to regulate my emotions
sometimes. The slightest thing can cause me to become defensive, tearful, reserved, agitated, confused,
anxious, dazed. Most often, I have no idea what specifically changed and it’s usually not directly related
to the current moment.
Solution: If you notice this happening, subtle reminders to take deep breaths, take a break, or overall support might be helpful. Or not….I’m not always sure.
Please respect me asking to go to the nurse or secretary’s office...
School is a stimulating environment full of peers talking, lockers slamming, bells ringing, books closing,
papers rumbling, colors, writings, movement, smells, bright lights, etc. This can often be overstimulating for a person with anxiety. Sometimes I am able to calm myself once settled in the classroom but there are also those times where it is just too much.
Solution: In these cases, asking to go to the bathroom for a quick break, seeing the nurse to lay down in a quiet place for a bit, or visiting the secretary’s office to work independently would be helpful for you to understand.
I have an IEP/504 for a reason, please follow it...
Most teachers respect when an IEP or 504 is put into place, and I know it's a lot more work for you to accommodate ONE student. Disregarding my needs, though, makes me feel like you just don't care and that something is wrong with me.
Solution: Reviewing my file and making slight accommodations would be helpful. I don’t want to be
treated differently, especially not in front of my peers, but there is a reason this was put into place and it’s a need, not just a want.
Sometimes I want to participate but I don’t know how to...
I want to show you that I’m a good student, I know the answer, I want to feel good about participating
but I don’t always feel comfortable in doing so. Maybe I have low self-confidence, maybe I have self-
doubt, maybe I’m scared.
Solution: Subtle encouragement goes a long way in helping me to feel more confident in participating.
I’m not asking for special accommodations, to not complete assignments, to be lazy, to distract my peers, or to be an inconvenience. I am asking for you to be understanding that every student’s needs are different. Some of us struggle with things you may not experience or manage it in way that you might not understand. Taking the time to get to know me as a person and showing support and compassion would help me succeed in your classroom.
The Student in The Back Row
From The Professional:
A message to students: Teachers don’t always know about your past, current struggles, or how to best help meet your needs. As a student, it would benefit you to muster up the courage to speak with your
teacher individually. You also need to take into consideration their perspective as a teacher and
acknowledge that not all adjustments can be made. At times, a teacher challenging you to do something
that you might initially not feel comfortable with can benefit you in the long run.
A message to parents: Listen, really hear, what concerns your child has. Encourage them to talk with their teachers individually first. Support them by speaking with their school counselor. Communication is key!
If you are a student that struggles with anxiety, a teacher that knows someone who does, or a parent
wanting to get help for your child, please reach out. Now is a great time to start preparing students for
the upcoming school year and difficult transitions that many often face.
Allison Kidd, LMSW, LAC
Resolve Counseling and Wellnes
Allison specializes in working with preteens and adolescents focused on depression, anxiety, substance use, and self-harming behaviors. She is passionate about helping others to thrive and find joy in their life again.