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Shy Students, shy restrictions

Hi everyone,

My first blog.

When I first realised that being shy stopped me from experiencing more things, I decided to use acting and performance as a way to learn to communicate with others.

Just like starting a new year in a new classroom, it is imperative to share a bit about myself to alleviate any pressures and open more doors of wonder. Here is one of the reasons why I am the teacher I am today: Consideration and care for those that are shy and introverted I am naturally shy. I get this trait from my Dad’s side and I always go into tasks with a goal to take more risks with communication. In other words, do more of it. Most people see me as quite bubbly, vibrant and anything but shy – But in truth, I am still naturally introverted and reserved, I have just learned how to combat the barriers that used to block me from being able to communicate effectively. The great thing about this is that I am able to use these skills to help others. I always empathise and work well with shy students and can build their confidence and communicative skill-set to a point where they are: 1. comfortable showing their personalities to others 2. comfortable being who they are (even if that is being the wonderful quiet and reserved student that they are) 3. comfortable expressing other emotions other than fear in the learning environment (such as, excitement, happiness, sadness) 4. comfortable with actively participating (taking risks, leading, experimenting, selecting, analysing, discussing, collaborating, creating, performing) 5. comfortable with following through with their own goals and completing them

I believe Confidence building within shy restrictions is a process and each individual has their own complexities within their confidence building process.

Shy restrictions

So first and foremost, it is important as a teacher to know what “shy” actually looks like. And, as a matter of fact, it can take many shapes and forms. For instance,

  • Full restrictions with communication: quiet tendencies; softly spoken, very little movement and closed off posture. Their anxieties are in physical communication such as speaking and completing tasks that require movement

  • Limelight restrictions: quiet tendencies; softly spoken, but comfortable to work with others or alone in quiet or without focus on them (e.g. rely on confident people to share ideas for them and will go along with what is happening in a group)

  • Verbal restrictions: quiet tendencies; gently spoken, comfortable answering briefly, but hesitant about speaking on behalf of others and to share their own ideas in formal settings e.g. presentations, answering in class, being a leader and having to consistently communicate back and forth with their group

  • Physical restrictions: quiet tendencies; gently spoken, comfortable doing sit down activities and conversing, however feels anxiety and pressure to apply energy into physical tasks such as bigger dance movements, yelling in scenes, being first to bat in sports or be captain of a sports team


With these shy restrictions, they also have levels of complexities within the restrictions. There is also underlying other fears and instincts that come into play as well, such as being intimidated by others, bullying, competitive elements, trust issues or more fostered relationships have occurred beyond the usual dynamics (best friend is in their class, their teacher is also their coach or a family friend, older siblings former teacher etc.). Furthermore, sometimes someone may struggle to respond and speak to others in one situation but in another setting they do it in a really confident manner e.g. comfortable being a team captain, not comfortable being the lead speaker in a group presentation. This is the student learning to work on their communicative skills and have recognised they succeed in this area already, and to me, these are all small triumphs and a process that moves forward in an authentic way that works for the student. This is why it is also equally important not to categorise students when making Educational judgments and assessments, as each student is authentic in their own way. But it is really good to notice in each student where the restriction is and make note where to apply the emphasis to support their needs.

I believe Confidence building within shy restrictions is a process and each individual has their own complexities within their confidence building process.

I will use a true story about myself to show why I believe this:

True story I was in an audition one day and I was only 18. The room was buzzing with excitement and everyone was interacting except me, as I didn’t know anyone so I just sat on the floor against the wall and watched everyone. Another applicant entered the room, and everyone paused. Although I didn’t know him, they all did. He scanned the room and immediately locked eyes with me. He pointed right at me and projected across the room: BE CAREFUL OF THE QUIET ONES IN THE ROOM, THEY’LL ALWAYS SHOCK YOU! Everyone immediately turned to look where he directed his finger. All eyes on me, I blushed and smiled… He couldn’t have been more right. Because even though I was shy and unnoticeable around people in everyday situations, the moment I stepped foot on the stage I was a fire-cracker! I had learned how to apply my skills through the only way I knew how…


When I first realised that being shy stopped me from experiencing more things, I decided to use acting and performance as a way to learn to communicate with others. When you are on stage, there is a raw accountability that makes you face fears. I knew that if I was on stage, I couldn’t hide, I had to use my voice and my body movements in front of others. So I jumped straight in the deep end and performed in a musical at 13 years old. After 5 years and several plays and dance performances later, I developed my confidence. But I hadn’t practiced talking in public situations with strangers. A massive influence why I didn’t build on this aspect was because I was bullied quite often in social situations. I hadn’t learned to tread through this aspect with care and an experts help, but rather, I avoided it. Thinking of these two aspects, I flourished in the performance aspect, yet was restricted because of the bullying aspect. With my assistance, I apply care and support in these two fields when mentoring and when teaching students to build on their confidence and communicative skills. It is one of the reasons why I like to get to know my students as well, so I can understand and work with their restrictions.

Time, experience, manaakitanga

What does shy mannerisms look like in activities and in an Educational setting?

  • They stand to the side or against the wall

  • In a physical learning environment they would stand behind confident students or further away from the teacher

  • They sit with friends

  • If the classroom is buzzing with noise and excitement at the start of a lesson, they are usually the ones attentive and/or reading things on the walls or board while they wait

  • When they raise their hand, it may not be raised high or for long periods of time

  • They will share their ideas with friends and then the confident friend with relay the information to the class or teacher

  • When they accept a compliment they may smile, blush, drop their gaze or make a small shrug/twitch/motion with their body allowing the excitement to only release in a small manner

  • They hold items or place items in front of them providing extra distance and protection from the area where the alarm/anxiety is coming from (someone trying to communicate with them) e.g. their bag, a desk, books, friends, sports equipment

  • On the rare occasion, they might overly project it by trying not to show they are shy and therefore are boisterously loud (but you can usually hear the throat heavy delivery of the voice and the tension in the chest, as this is the internal situation counteracting what’s going on and trying to add a fight response to the nerves they are feeling)

  • “Chicken wings™” When I teach Drama and Dance, and my students are nervous or shy they will lock their elbows into their ribs/not expose their armpits by not extending their arms outwards. So as they are moving they will act like they have chicken wings. Even when simply raising their hands to answer a question. This is because in order to have confidence in yourself you need to apply energy to make your personal self appear bigger. People that are shy, reserved and lack confidence do not wish to attract attention or direct more focus towards themselves so they will do what they can to appear smaller and less seen, so to speak

How can I help shy students?

Tovah’s Tutoring Company Ltd ™ has two ways in which to help students come out of their shells, improving their communicative skills, work on their shy restrictions and build on their confidence: One-on-one tuition Through ongoing one hour one-on-one Zoom meetings with me the student can explore their own shy restrictions and set goals to communicate more effectively. We work through activities and practice communicating in different settings to allow the student to feel comfortable being their authentic self around others. $70 p/h excl GST This can also take place in my office or I can come to your house if it in within the Waipa/Waikato region (travel costs apply) School workshops I provide opportunities to run school workshops in Drama, Dance and Confidence Building. This can be one hour workshop(s), full day workshop(s), or ongoing weekly workshop(s) on a term by term basis. This can be set up with the school or set up with a company during after school hours / within a holiday programme. If you would like this to occur at your school, let’s start a conversation and see what we can do. See my Student Packages on my other website for more information here What the outcome looks like? My favourite bit: The surprise and the acceptance.

  • Self acceptance: my favourite part is always seeing the joy that comes from my shy students taking risks in our learning environment(s). There is nothing better than seeing someone comfortable in their own skin and seeing this beautiful personality that they hide, shared with the world and with their new friends!

  • Others in the class literally say to the shy students “I didn’t know you were funny? That’s so cool!”, “Wow you’re a really good dancer!”, “You’ve been hiding all that talent this whole time!” and there’s this amazing buzzing energy of love and friendship that flourishes from courage

  • They notice new pathways and experiences in life and their world is their oyster! All of a sudden, they want to try tap into the part of their brain that wants to try new things and I am able to see new passions flourish from within them

I have much more to say, which I will share along this journey.

Time, experience, manaakitanga

Tovah O’Neill

Tovah's Tutoring Company Ltd Note All information discussed here is from an Educational perspective and from my own opinions. I am not a trained in psychology and a psychological standpoint is not presented in this blog.

If you would like to book online tutoring over the holidays or during 2023, you can do so by booking here:

If you would like to know more about me as a teacher and online tutor, you can learn more by reading this blog:

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