I have a first grader who went to a private school for PreK and K but is now in a public magnet school for first grade. He is not much of a talker in class and is very shy. He has been reluctant in responding to the teachers questions in class. When the teacher asks questions in class he does not reply and tries to avoid eye contact, looks every other way except the teacher. If he does not understand the task, he will sit there instead of asking the teacher a question as how to do it. There are talkers in the class so the teacher is disciplining by telling everyone to keep quiet. He says that he is not allowed to speak in class because he will get in trouble but the teacher says she wants him to answer when she asks him something or when it is class discussion time. What should I do? Thanks
From: Natasha, Baton Rouge, LA
First, two caveats: 1. This is first grade you're talking about. It's also a new school for him. Give him a break! Give him time to find his footing. As he gains confidence and a comfort level with all the changes, he may start to speak up.
2. Avoid calling him "shy." It can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Think of him instead as "slow to warm up."
OK, now to your question.
Kids this age tend to see the world as if it's set in concrete and there's no room for flexibility. When the teacher says, "I want everyone to be quiet or else!," what he takes in is, "I don't want to get into trouble! I can't talk!"
You need to help him understand: "There are lots of rules. One rule is not to talk in class when the teacher is talking. Another rule is, when the teacher asks you a question, the rule is to look her in the eyes and tell her the answer if you know it, or say, "I don't understand," or say, "I don't know."
It's possible that he's very rigid and will only believe these rules if he hears them from the teacher, so you may need to enlist her aid.
BTW, don't panic. Just because he is very rigid and rule-bound now does not mean he will always be this way. He may always have a tendency to be cautious but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
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