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The Shy Student

At first glance a shy student and a nervous student may show very similar traits, but the main difference between the two lies in their reason for exhibiting these traits. In general, it the shy student has a generally more quiet and less confrontational personality, meaning that they are not accustomed to expressing their opinions and sharing their ideas extensively and prefer to be more reserved.

What characterizes the shy student?

The shy student is very passive during a consultation, especially at the start. If it is their first time to visit the writing center, they will not know what to expect and will need a lot of direction. They probably will not volunteer any information unless asked, and will then only say the the bare minimum. They generally won’t look at directly at you and tend to look down when speaking. Often they seem unsure of what to do with their hands or otherwise seem to feel a bit awkward. This is similar to the nervous student but it seems less connected to their writing and more connected to their general social habits with new people or authority figures.

How can we help this student?

The shy student is going to need a lot of encouragement right form the get-go. This means taking the initiative to be talkative, friendly, and welcoming. This is, of course, how we should always begin a tutoring session, but in this case it may take a little more enthusiasm and persistence. It helps to ask several questions to get the student talking, and then to give them something to do while you read their paper because they will feel especially awkward just sitting there. Be careful of your facial expressions while reading the paper, keeping them gentle without any sharp frowns or unexpected smiles. As you progress through the consultation, do as much as you can to give authority to the student. This can be done by asking questions that show the student how much you do or don’t know on the subject, helping them to realize that they are the expert on the subject.

If you call into question their reasoning or idea, do so by asking questions about their views rather than saying something like “well this reasoning doesn’t quite follow.” In some cases the reasoning on the page is not representative of the reasoning in the student’s thoughts; this is why it is best to ask questions rather than make anything close to a judgment on their work, as they may take it to be a judgment on their idea or on themselves and will then be less inclined to share. Often times the shy student will open up by the end of the session, making for an interesting and generally productive consultation.