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10 Reasons Teens With Social Anxiety Should Not Have to Do Class Presentations

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There’s been some uproar on social media about this topic, so I thought it deserved some attention. I can see both sides of this issue. However, I thought I would play devil’s advocate and list 10 reasons I can see why teenagers should not be required to do a class presentation.

Here we go, in no particular order.

1. Anxiety is made worse when you feel trapped.

I remember, as a high school student, feeling a loss of power. It’s not like being an adult, where you can choose your job. Students who feel trapped and overwhelmed may drop courses they might otherwise enjoy or learn things from, just because of a public speaking component. If the course is not about public speaking, does that need to be part of the evaluation? Students should never feel trapped or fearful at school.

2. Students should not fear school.

This leads into my second point — students should not fear school. For students with a bona fide public speaking phobia, required class presentations could turn what is supposed to be a learning experience into a painful four years of severe anxiety and avoidance.

3. The world is changing.

How relevant is it to do a class presentation? We’re moving toward a world where communication is important, but standing up in front of group with Powerpoint slides might be becoming outdated. Could students prepare webinars instead? Give talks via Skype or some other chat app? Increasingly, communication is going digital and the school system needs to catch up.

4. Not all students want careers that involve public speaking.

While students should never discount careers because of a public speaking phobia (that they could overcome), it’s also a fact there are students in high school who won’t end up in careers that require public speaking. To say it’s a necessary skill that needs to be taught overlooks the students who already know they don’t want a career that requires it.

5. There is a lack of mental health support.

Requiring teens to do class presentations without the necessary psychological support for students with public speaking phobias is an oversight. Teachers need to be trained to spot the symptoms of severe anxiety and send those students on to the school psychologist.

6. Teachers are not psychologists.

This leads to my next point — teachers are not psychologists and should not be expected to deal with students experiencing public speaking phobias. Requiring class presentations puts teachers in the awkward position of not knowing how to help students or having to fail students who are too anxious and skip out.

7. It can be stressful for introverts.

If introverts designed the school system, what would classes look like? Think on that for a moment. We might not have class presentations, but rather small meaningful group discussion. Is there only one way to teach? One way to communicate? A curriculum designed with introverts in mind might look very different than the one we have now.

8. Accommodations are made for other disabilities – why not anxiety?

This is specific to those with a diagnosed anxiety disorder. If a student were disabled in some other way, they would be offered accommodations to level the playing field, so-to-speak. If an anxious student could deliver a presentation in some other format that was less taxing, would that be viewed as acceptable?

9. The objective of education should be learning.

In the end, the objective of education is to learn. That might mean learning how to read, how to write, how to do basic math, or about more advanced topics. It might even mean how to speak in public. If that’s the case, and they are learning how to speak in public, why isn’t anyone teaching that? I remember learning how to write an essay. I don’t remember anyone teaching us how to give a presentation or how to overcome a fear of it.

10. Nobody is teaching them how to do it.

This leads to my final point — nobody is teaching students how to give a class presentation or how to work through public speaking anxiety. If we could do more of that in schools, then I could see the value of requiring that students do a class presentation. Until that time, perhaps they should be optional, with the option of being evaluated in other ways, such as through a written or graphical assignment.

A version of this article was previously published on the author’s website.

Getty Images photo via AndreaObzerova.

Originally published: January 15, 2019
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