Pressure To Participate

Maia Abrahams, guest columnist

I hear my teacher’s voice ask for volunteers. 

This is an easy one, I think to myself. You know the answer. I feel my heart pounding out of my chest, my head spinning, and my hand feels like it’s weighed down by 1,000 pounds. I can’t bring myself to lift it. 

School is catered toward extroverts. While points may be earned for showing up to class on time or completing homework, there is often a section that involves participating at least twice per class. No matter how hard I try to raise my hand, my anxiety gets the best of me. I know my grade will drop. Not because of a lack of effort on assignments, but because my participation grades are dragging it down. 

 It haunts me. 

The pressure of participating in class weighs heavily on my shoulders. While teachers may claim participation grades keep the class engaged, in reality, it tortures introverted students who lack the ability to easily participate. 

Participation damages my grades in many classes such as English, Spanish, and math. For example, I couldn’t move up to the honors level in one of my classes because my participation wasn’t up to par. If a student didn’t participate 25 times per semester, their grade was in jeopardy. There were charts with our names recording each time a student participated. I felt ashamed that I didn’t participate as much as other students because my anxiety held me back. Why should personality hold back introverted students so much? Why does school dismiss students who are quiet in class?

I grew frustrated as my grades declined and there was little I could do to fix it. Without this pressure, the mental health of introverted students would improve. An article written by Shana L. Boyle in Nemours Children’s Health stated that when students with social anxiety are forced to participate, they experience symptoms similar to a panic attack. 

 “[Students] have physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, stomach pains, nausea, and a racing heartbeat,” Boyle wrote.

With this anxiety burdening students, removing participation grades will help relieve the stress. Experiencing 90 minutes of miniature panic attacks in each class is not the ideal way to learn. There are other ways to keep a class engaged, and counting the amount of times students raise their hands should not be the primary method used. 

Participation grades are bricks on introverted students’ shoulders. Instead of letting this continue, it is important to realize that removing this method will end the pressure for introverted students to participate and relieve their stress. Anxiety will decrease, mental health will improve, and school will be a more comfortable place for introverted students.