Friday, January 11, 2013

Easing Student Fears

Fear of the unknown is a natural emotion.

When people are afraid, they generally do one of two things:
  1. They attack.
  2. They hide.
You may get a similar reaction from students when you try something new in your class.  Maybe what you have planned wasn't new to you, but new to the student?  Next time students get angry (attack) about an assignment or, if as you are explaining it to them, they start to slouch down or divert their eyes (hide), consider this:

Their reaction may be based on fear of the unknown.

How can you help ease the anxiety?
  • Recognize their emotions are valid
  • Provide a few examples
  • Guide them through a practice exercise
  • Praise their effort and reward their growth
  • Model appropriate risk taking and provide genuine behaviors
  • Ask them to help you define the fear.  Put a face on it (very likely to be failure)
  • Create a "failure free zone" where students can take a risk and be evaluated based on individual progress rather than by comparison to others
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