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3 ways I help students with social anxiety

Social anxiety is more common than you think. Many people have it. Many people also hide having it. Regardless, it is important to me that people with social anxiety know that if I am online tutoring them, they will feel supported and heard.


My experiences with anxiety

It isn't the nicest feeling to have social anxiety. I have it. I love being social and love seeing my friends but leading up to seeing them is excruciating for me. I worry so much about it that my stomach knots up and I feel sick.

If I see people I know out at the park or a shop, I panic and end up having to push myself into saying hello. If I don't do it immediately, I fixate on it and wonder how on earth I'm going to say hello now that we've both seen each other. Social anxiety is awful business on the mind and body. But luckily, there are ways to support people with social anxiety, and when I am tutoring them, I definitely take it into consideration.




...talking about social anxiety really helps...it goes from something one person has, to becoming something two people have in common...so it becomes normal.

1. Acknowledge you have anxiety


I think talking about social anxiety really helps address the elephant in the room. It also alleviates the pressures of having it because it goes from something one person has, to becoming something two people have in common...so it becomes normal.


Another part of acknowledging social anxiety is making sure the learner acknowledges it too. The more they say what they are capable of, the more they believe it. So, it is always important to me to make sure they tell me at the end of our lessons what they did well and if they can't think of anything, they must repeat what I've said (which is usually what I notice and an example to justify why I believe it).


Here is a scenario that took place between one of my low self-esteem, socially anxious students:


Me: How do you think you went today? Did you write a great paragraph?

Student: I don't know, probably.

Me: Probably? Let's look at the last paragraph you just did...Hmm...I think I see a topic sentence....oww and hold on a minute there's a transition into a quote...what's this part after the quote?

Student: The critical analysis

Me: You sure? There's a lot of sentences going on there. Are they your opinions?

Student: Yes

Me: Are they relevant to the text?

Student: Yeah (starts smiling)

Me: Isn't that interesting... and this ending here. What's that?

Student: A "mic drop" ending

Me: So, what does that mean? Have you written a paragraph with all the structure I've asked you to include?

Student: Yeah.

Me: And it has a critical analysis that is more than one sentence?

Student: Yes (trying their hardest not to smile)

Me: So, what does that mean?

Student: I can write a paragraph.

Me: A good paragraph or a great paragraph?

Student: A good paragraph?

Me: You sure? You had a fantastic analysis in there that wasn't just one sentence. It backed up your quote nicely and even discussed the author's perspective... Seems a little better than just a good paragraph, don't you think? Was it a good paragraph or a great paragraph?

Student: A great paragraph.

Me: So how do you think you went today? Did you write a great paragraph?

Student: Yes, I wrote a great paragraph

Me: Yes, you most definitely did, and I am incredibly proud of you for doing that, too! You're amazing, [student's name]. Can't wait to see what else you can do, next time I see you. Have a great rest of your day and make sure you tell your parents all about this truly amazing paragraph of yours. I don't want to hear any of this "I can't write a paragraph" kafuffle anymore either. Because you can do it and you do it incredibly well too.

Student: [laughing] Yeah ok.

Me: See you later, amazing paragraph writer!





When someone is passionate about something, they have more to say

2. Use Social anxiety as a theme within poems, scripts, stories and other resources


When I'm teaching English, Drama and Dance, I practice using relevant text (types of resources) on a regular basis. If someone has social anxiety, then I will find poems and scripts where characters and the writers express what it is like for them. When this happens, it provides another person's perspective of social anxiety and the learner sees it isn't just them, it isn't just them and the teacher, it is all of us...and more!

When we talk about it and write critically about it, you'll be surprised at the outcome of their writing. When someone is passionate about something, they have more to say, and the critical analysis side of our online tuition can flourish nicely when there is that wonderful connection between the learner and what they are writing about.




Half the time it isn't the learner's abilities which hold them back from retaining information, it is their mental blocks.

3. Encourage the courage


I think it is just as important to encourage the courage. What I mean by this, is complimenting and praising the learner when they are building their trust with others and you. I find, especially at the start of our sessions, I will tell them how proud I am of them for writing their opinions down when we write paragraphs together or for demonstrating facial expressions when they are rehearsing with me. It takes a trust to take risks with strangers and that is who I am at the start. So, I praise them for trusting me and for showing me what they can do. When I ask them how their week has been and what they've done in the classroom, if they tell me they knew the answer to something and shared it with the class or if they worked in a group, I let them know that it is amazing that they were able to do that, and I admire their courage to push through their social anxieties.



When these 3 things are reoccurring within my online tutoring sessions, I notice something incredible...humour. Humour tells me so much about the learner. It tells me they are relaxing around me and showing me their personality, that they are relaxing and trusting in the learning process that is happening between us, and it shows me that they are comfortable and willing to build a positive relationship with me. I mean it when I say that I have established many positive and effective relationships with my learners, because I take the time to break down those walls and work on supporting them through their social anxiety. Half the time it isn't the learner's abilities which hold them back from retaining information, it is their mental blocks. So, I make sure they know how important they are and capable they are to a point where even they believe they can apply the skills that they wanted to achieve in their goals.




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Time, Experience, Mannakitanga.


Tovah O'Neill

Tovah's Tutoring Company Ltd.


























































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