The latest protest by students involves in-class presentations, which they say are discriminatory (“Teens Are Protesting In-Class Presentations,” The Atlantic, Sep. 12). According to them, this traditional practice creates anxiety in those prone to the condition. I think that eliminating such presentations actually does a disservice.
One of the most effective ways of reducing anxiety is to gradually expose students to precisely what they fear the most. The key to success is how it is done. If teachers provide students with appropriate practice, I submit that anxiety will be eliminated or at least greatly reduced. Let me explain how.
When I began my 28-year teaching career in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I was assigned an introductory speech class. I decided to throw away the textbook and instead try a different approach. After introducing myself the first day, I asked each student to come to the front of the room and introduce oneself in two or three sentences. Nothing else.
It was quite apparent that almost all students were nervous and self-conscious. But the mere act of standing in front of their peers immediately helped them to see that their fears were greatly exaggerated. I used their first appearance as a baseline from which their progress would be compared over the semester.
My point is that how teachers prepare their students for the assignment is the key to success. Avoiding what we fear the most only reinforces the fear, even though it may be initially uncomfortable. By the way, the approach I used resulted in several of my students winning state speaking tournaments, with trophies still on display in the school’s showcase.
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