“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”
As the first month of school is coming to a close, try to keep this quote in mind whenever you feel hesitant about sharing your thoughts and opinions in class.
Admittedly, it does take a lot to express yourself in class while simultaneously ignoring that nagging feeling at that everyone in the room is judging you. At my school, students are encouraged to voice out their opinions in class no matter how frank or subversive they may be. In some other schools, it tends to be the case that students are afraid of speaking up because their opinions and ideas deviate from what their respective communities deem as acceptable or unacceptable.
Something that usually limits students from participating in class discussions is the extent to which they feel that their opinions will be taken seriously by their teachers. It isn’t easy to voice out an unpopular or unconventional opinion, especially if you’re in an environment where you’re discouraged from thinking critically about views that are widely held by figures of authority.
The next time you find yourself in a situation in which you’re afraid that what you want to say is “too much,” remember that many if not most of the “unpopular” or “unconventional” opinions held throughout history are now widely accepted and even considered as common sense! There’s nothing wrong with questioning or challenging conventional ways of thinking as long as you’re doing so with respect.
The only time you should hold back from sharing your opinions is when you have even the slightest suspicion that you’re disrespecting someone’s race, gender identity, sexuality, or anything else that an individual might identify with. Otherwise, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t feel confident about sharing your opinions even if your teacher or the rest of the class disagrees with you. Again, just make sure that you’re being respectful and that you’ve put a great deal of thought into what you want to say before you actually say it.
This being said, another reason why some students find it difficult to participate in class is because they’re afraid of being ostracized by their peers. People can be quick to label opinions that differ from their own as wrong or stupid; other times they can be quick to laugh with no qualms about whether or not their laughter is shared by the person speaking.
Both of these behaviors stem from disrespect and a general inability to be open-minded and consider other people’s perspectives. Don’t be afraid of being criticized or laughed at, because it’s usually the case that people who barrage you with negative criticism just don’t understand what you’re trying to say. If there are people who don’t respect your opinions, don’t lash out at them. Remember that you were brave enough to share your dissenting opinion or idea, and understand that you shouldn’t care what people think if they don’t take the time to listen to you or support you in an environment where everyone should be working and learning together.
Once you get used to being more vocal about your raw and unfiltered opinions, you’ll be so focused on engaging in thoughtful discourse with the rest of your class that any initial notions of embarrassment or fear will disappear.
So, the next time you’re afraid of sharing a certain thought or opinion in class, remember that everyone is entitled to make their voice known to others without fear of being ostracized. Recognize and encourage others to think about how if everyone went through exactly the same thought processes, our knowledge of the world would never grow and everything would be so slow to change. In order to grow as students and lifelong learners, we need to get out of our comfort zones no matter how uncomfortable it might be at first.