Classroom Anxiety—Learning to Raise Your Hand

written by: Eagle Hill School
Classroom anxiety is real. Sometimes it’s a result of a learning disability, sometimes it is the impediment to learning itself—no matter the case, it is a major issue for many students in today’s classrooms.

Class sometimes isn’t fun for anyone; it’s the job of institutions and educators across the country to make it an intriguing, informative, and immersive experience. Sometimes, however, a student’s hesitation to enter the classroom stems from a more serious problem: anxiety.

Why Are Students Anxious about Class?

Many students, especially those with learning differences, also have generalized anxiety disorders—school is just another item on their list of things to be anxious about. Separately, sometimes compounding the problem, is the anxiety of looking “dumb” or not knowing the answer…getting something wrong. We all worry about this, but students who have a history of learning disabilities have undoubtedly experienced more of this than the “average” student.

All of this works in anxiety’s favor, sometimes creating a crippling sense of dread upon entering the school building. Many of our school systems aren’t set up for students’ success, that is, they pay no mind to the needs of a variety of students, accounting only for the “norm.” This produces an atmosphere in which the top performers are rewarded, the “underachievers” are reprimanded, and those too quiet to participate are neglected.

Is My Child Anxious about School?

If your child suffers with any type of learning difference, chances are they experience some trepidation on a daily basis. This isn’t to say that all students with learning disabilities are extremely anxious about school…there’s a spectrum.

Some signs that your child might be experiencing anxiety around school are:
  • Being sick. Sometimes children who are anxious about school pretend to be sick so that they don’t have to go. Others truly experience physical manifestations of their anxiety: nausea, upset stomach, etc. Sometimes it’s a mix of both. If your child is exhibiting this often, it could be a sign they’re experiencing some serious anxiety about school.
  • Being quiet and vague. Oftentimes kids just don’t feel like sharing everything that’s going on at school—that’s normal. However, if your child is consistently not vocal about what he or she is learning or interested in, there might be something more serious getting in their way of enjoying class.
  • Acting out. Students who “act out” in class by being disruptive or distracting may be compensating, putting up a sort of armor against the anxiety they are feeling.
What Can We Do?

Schools and educators should seek to create safe and nurturing environments where students feel encouraged to raise their hands and answer a question. Instilling this sort of participation is a cornerstone of creating a collaborate and healthy environment for both students AND teachers.

Classroom discussions should be just that, discussions, not trial by fire. Striving for a school setting where uncertainty is considered curiosity, not ignorance, is the best way to curb this “classroom anxiety” and to create an environment that students feel drawn toward, not fearful of.

What is Learning Diversity About?

Learning Diversity is a blog hosted by Eagle Hill School where educators, students, and other members of the LD community regularly contribute posts and critical essays about learning and living in spaces that privilege the inevitability of human diversity.

The contributors of Learning Diversity come together to engage our readers from a variety of disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, biological sciences and mathematics, athletics, and residential life. Embracing learning diversity means understanding and respecting our students as whole persons.

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Eagle Hill School

An innovative approach to LD education in a classic New England boarding school environment, where diverse learners achieve success.