Marie wrote in with a question I very often get asked “How can I encourage a shy student to learn English?”
Many teachers just see “shy” as a personality type, and hence use it as an excuse saying “it’s OK, she’s just shy.” But that really does no one any favours.
The key is to understand what “shy” actually means.
One definition, taken from Brian Tracy, is that shy simply means “the degree to which you can communicate with other people”.
Hence someone who is not shy can communicate with anyone. Someone who is shy cannot communicate with many people.
Once we realise this it’s easy to see that rather than being a personality trait or an excuse to be made, “shy” is actually the complete opposite of what we are trying to achieve with communication education.
So before we start teaching any English we have to overcome the shyness. We have to aim to banish it from class! As I show in my workshops and DVDs, confidence training has to be a major part of this and there are techniques you can use. And of course for kids who are very shy, simply being there to support them and giving them words of encouragement are very important.
But the aim should always be to remove shyness completely from the classroom, not to use it as an excuse or something not related to the study at hand. As someone who is incredibly shy by nature I know that if it is left unchecked it can be a huge social hindrance. But once it can be conquered the whole world is your oyster!