The Atlantic wrote an article about teenagers protesting in-class presentations after a tweet went viral that said “stop forcing students to present in front of the class and give them a choice not to.” Students said this experience can be traumatic and permanently scar them.

As someone with severe anxiety, I understand where they’re coming from. I refuse to use the word snowflake in this situation because there is a stigma around anxiety and it’s not well understood, but at the same time, learning to speak in front of people is a valuable lesson.

The Atlantic wrote:

Students who support abolishing in-class presentations argue that forcing students with anxiety to present in front of their peers is not only unfair because they are bound to underperform and receive a lower grade, but it can also cause long-term stress and harm.

“Nobody should be forced to do something that makes them uncomfortable,” says Ula, a 14-year-old in eighth grade, who, like all students quoted, asked to be referred to only by her first name. “Even though speaking in front of class is supposed to build your confidence and it’s part of your schoolwork, I think if a student is really unsettled and anxious because of it you should probably make it something less stressful. School isn’t something a student should fear.”

“It feels like presentations are often more graded on delivery when some people can’t help not being able to deliver it well, even if the content is the best presentation ever,” says Bennett, a 15-year-old in Massachusetts who strongly agrees with the idea that teachers should offer alternative options for students. “Teachers grade on public speaking which people who have anxiety can’t be great at.”

“I get that teachers are trying to get students out of their comfort zone, but it’s not good for teachers to force them to do that,” says Henry, a 15-year-old also in Massachusetts.

Look, I know anxiety is real and I didn’t receive proper medication for it until I hit adulthood. Even with it my anxiety can take over. I rarely answer the phone and calling anyone to make an appointment fills me with dread.

The absolute most important lesson? You cannot let your anxiety win. It’s hard, but it’s what you must do, especially if you want to succeed in the real world. Confronting your fears and weaknesses is the only way to move forward. It sounds cliche, but the more you do it, the better you become at it. You don’t succeed at something by walking away.

But also as a former teacher, I hate how the education system has become a one size fits all curriculum because every single person is different. If a teacher wants to change things around when it comes to in-class presentations then go for it. If a kid has severe anxiety, I’d hope the teacher would work with the student and start off small.

Look at what these teachers told The Atlantic:

Joe Giordano, a high-school teacher in Baltimore, says that he’s also sympathetic to the movement away from mandatory in-class presentations. As an art teacher, he hosts “crit” sessions where students’ work is critiqued. He always gives the teenagers a choice as to whether or not they want to speak about their own work.

“It kind of irks me when I see a lot of other teachers say, ‘But we have to get them up there.’ These kids are living under more stressful situations than I did as a student. Their anxiety runs pretty high,” he said. “I know we should put them in uncomfortable situations, but if they suffer from anxiety they’re already in an uncomfortable situation. As a teacher I try to show compassion. It’s not about being a drill instructor.”

Kathleen Carver, a high-school history teacher in Texas, says teaching has changed since the days when she grew up. “I think in this day and age there [are] different pressures. We expect different things from our students,” she said. “We’re in a day and age where we have to acknowledge our students’ feelings. I have to listen to them and hear their feedback and respond to that. That’s how I can be a more effective teacher. If I ignored their feelings I don’t think they would like me or my class or walk away learning things.”

Giordano is correct and so is Carver to an extent. Kids with actual anxiety are already uncomfortable and the times have changed. But I disagree with Carver on dictating everything about feelings. The real world doesn’t care about your feelings and you will be in situations you cannot control. The sooner you get used to it the better off you’ll be when you get older.

I also don’t like people making light of the issue and honestly, anxiety gets confused with nervous. The Atlantic highlighted this fact, too:

Those campaigning against in-class presentations said that it was important to distinguish between students with actual diagnosable anxiety disorders and those who might just want to get out of the assignment. Addie, a 16-year-old in New York, said that schools like hers already make accommodations for students with certain learning issues to get extra time on tests. She thinks similar processes could be put in place for students with public-speaking anxiety. “I think it’s important these accommodations are accessible, but that they’re also given to those who are need it instead of those who just say they don’t want to present,” she said. “There’s a big difference between nervousness and anxiety.”

Anxiety is not an easy diagnosis because it varies. No anxiety is the same. People have different triggers, different coping mechanisms. Those without anxiety don’t understand. I mean, *I* don’t fully understand it!

Out of all the hardships children have in school, we shouldn’t concentrate on in-class presentations. At Reason, Robby Soave agrees “since they impart an actually useful skill.” Soave added:

It’s true that young people today are a lot more stressed out than previous generations. Much more is demanded of today’s K-12 students, and the competition for spots at elite colleges is more brutal than ever. Students have massive homework loads that keep them up late, and still they must get ready for school as early (or earlier) than most adults. They are often involved in a punishing number of extracurricular activities, since good grades are not enough to make a college application shine.

There are good reasons to address many of these sources of stress. The Centers for Disease Control, for example, has warned that 93 percent of high schools begin classes too early, against the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

[Featured image via YouTube]


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