Silence is Golden This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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There were five reading groups in my grade school. Somehow, I managed to work my way into the most advanced one, despite my disinterest in anything having to do with words. But all the pride and excitement faded in a few weeks. My stern-faced reading teacher handed me a book of all my completed reading assignments and sent me packing to the next level down. The only reason she gave for my demotion – via my mother – was “She's too quiet.”

Obviously, there's shame in being downgraded, even at that age. It was a blow to my fourth-grader ego. It wasn't the first time a teacher had labeled me “the quiet student.” I already felt as though this was tattooed to my tongue; anytime I spoke, my words wouldn't be as loud as others wanted them to be. The word “quiet” was clearly something shameful. I hated being ­associated with it.

Perhaps my work in the advanced group left something to be desired, but from what I can remember, my reading grades were always A's and B's. Reading and writing came naturally to me, even then. But in class discussions, I didn't put forth “the effort.”

During my schooling I've learned that the American educational system has the mindset that quiet is bad. Yes, I know verbal communication is something everyone needs. But if it's so important, why don't schools offer communication aid for introverted students? Instead of simply telling them they need to speak up more, schools should treat “quiet” as a personality trait – not a flaw – and show students ways to get their ideas across while remaining true to themselves.

During grade school, if even one teacher had explained to me that being quiet wasn't something to be ashamed of, it would have spared me a lot of heartaches. And I would have spent much less time trying to figure out how to be more talkative.

Instead, I spent my school career as “that silent one” in the back of the class. My lack of participation wasn't because I didn't know what was going on or didn't care, but because it's not in my nature to share my thoughts verbally on a regular basis.

You cannot convince an outgoing person to become shy, so why are we constantly telling quiet students to speak up? Perhaps it's time to start encouraging them to communicate in the ways they're most comfortable and aid them in getting comfortable sharing verbally. But just telling them “You're too quiet” or “Speak up” doesn't help.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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