Don’t gloss over glossophobia

 

Many crepuscular animals freeze when caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. With vision more suited to dark than light, they are temporarily blinded by the brightness. They become confused and, not knowing which way to turn, freeze. Others, like the Australian kangaroo, may panic and move erratically with unpredictable changes in direction. Any large animal on the road puts itself and any unwary motorist in danger.

Freezing in fear is a reaction not exclusive to animals. Humans are just as likely to freeze in fear, or perhaps panic and behave erratically unsure of how to respond. Some people find being “put in the spotlight” quite unnerving and exhibit similar responses to animals caught in the headlights.

While Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch was talking about a real deer caught in the headlights this week and challenged writers to in 99 words (no more, no less) write the common premise: “I ran over a deer (or other animal) and have decided to nurse it back to health, I decided to apply the challenge to a human situation.

Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is quite common. Many people suffer mild symptoms of reluctance, “butterflies” or sweaty palms. Others suffer more severe symptoms including total avoidance, panic attacks and other forms of physical distress.

Being called upon in class can be distressing for some students, particularly if they have been singled out or ridiculed for not knowing the correct answer in the past. Helping a student to overcome this fear requires patience and understanding. It may require an approach from many different angles and the support of a variety of personnel, as well as a desire by the student.

The student will require support to develop self- esteem and self-confidence as well as knowledge of the subject. A sensitive “not yet” approach by a teacher who offers support, and encourages other students to be supportive, will contribute greatly. It may take time for improvements to be noticeable as changing an established mindset, from “I’m a failure” to “I’m learning”, takes effort.

In her post Charli included a quote from the Tahoma Literary Review which included the suggestion that rescuing a deer and nursing it back to health may be used as a “metaphor for the protagonist’s desire to rescue his/her life by rescuing another’s.” It is not too big a stretch to think that, for some teachers, “rescuing” their students could enable them to “rescue” themselves; improving the lives of others improves their own through the ripple effect.

I have chosen this “rescue” as the theme of my response to Charli’s challenge: a breakthrough for Marnie in the development of her confidence and willingness to have a go in a class where students are developing a growth mindset under the guidance of a sensitive teacher.

Like a deer in the headlights

Like a deer in the headlights she was immobile. She’d dreaded this moment. Although she’d tried to fade into the background, she knew she couldn’t hide forever. The room suddenly fell silent, all eyes on her. Would she fail?

“Marnie?” prompted the teacher.

Her chair scraped as she stood. She grasped the table with trembling hands attempting to still her wobbly legs. They waited.

Marnie squeaked.  Some looked down, or away. Some sniggered. Jasmine smiled encouragingly. Marnie cleared her throat, then blurted the answer.

“That’s right!” congratulated the teacher.

The class erupted. Marnie smiled. Their efforts had paid off.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

 

 

55 thoughts on “Don’t gloss over glossophobia

  1. Sacha Black

    I adore this, because marine had something positive in her for once. You don’t half torture that kid! (In a good gripping emotive kind of way) you know what I mean!

    It’s funny, because standing up and talking was never a problem for me, not in class or on the stage or anywhere else really. I did get picked on for always having my hand up though! For asking ANOTHER question, for being too inquisitive or speaking up too often. I swear you can’t win – you stay silent and hinder your own learning – or speak up and ask the questions everyone’s thinking and it’s still wrong. I don’t know where we get this you can’t win business from.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I don’t mean to torture her, it’s just what happens. I’d love her to be a Polyanna, but I think Marnie’s story needs to be told too. There are too many of them out there suffering.
      I’m so pleased you were never too shy to ask those questions! And you keep on pushing the boundaries. It’s a good thing. It’s true that there seems to be no room for winners – trouble is it’s no winning post for anyone who manages to conform either.

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  2. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    A great post Norah and I love your flash. I am a Marnie character and you captured that fear perfectly and the thrill of managing it. I seem to be fine talking if I see it as work but in social situations and speaking in public were big hurdles for me. Knowing I would have to present lots of papers over the duration of my course and more particularly trying to sell my book to publishers and at writer’s festivals etc I knew it was a problem I had to overcome. I joined Toastmasters and I have to say that although I’m not comfortable as yet I can make a good go of it without freezing. The people, as in Marnie’s case, have been so supportive you can feel them rooting for you. In fact I just won the club competition for a humorous speech and am off to the area conference to compete. Now the nerves may set in with a vengenance.
    I’ve always thought it amusing that more people are afraid of public speaking than they are of dying which means they’d rather be lying in the coffin than giving the eulogy.
    I’ve seen the TED talk Bec recommends and I too would recommend it. In fact I used some of the techniques before giving my winning speech.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for joining int he conversation, Irene. From what many of us are saying, it’s a good thing we are sharing with our fingertips rather than our voices. We don’t “freeze” at the keyboard so much.
      Toastmasters sounds like a wonderful idea, and so good that you were able to recognise this area of need and do something about it. Sounds like you are going really well. Congratulations on winning the club competition. What an achievement. Best wishes for the area conference.
      That’s funny what you say about lying in a coffin rather than giving the eulogy. I guess once in the coffin there are no more worries!
      I’ll have to watch that TED talk. Maybe I’ll learn some strategies too!

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      1. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I think many writers are introverts and the fingertip sharing is great. I had no idea just how introverted I am until doing this university research. I have found it very confronting and haven’t yet worked out how to deal with it if indeed I should deal with it. Hopefully it will soon all be over and I can sink back into obscurity apart from my book which I am determined is going to be published soon.
        I’d recommend Toastmasters to anyone who needs to become more confident speaking in any situation whether it be social or public and that TED talk really is fantastic.

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        1. Norah Post author

          I wish you well with publishing your memoir. That’s hardly obscurity! And as for the public speaking – put on your growth mindset and take it one step at a time. Sounds like you’ve already taken a few leaps! 🙂

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  3. Sherri

    Thank you Norah for explaining so clearly and succinctly why certain animals freeze, quite literally, in the headlights. It looks as if they are looking straight at the light, well actually they are, and we assume that they can see better, but in fact they are so confused and unable to see clearly at all, so no wonder the poor things don’t know where to turn next 😦 I would be as shocked to see a kangaroo in the middle of the road. Perhaps being chased by a werewolf. Now that would make for a good story wouldn’t it? 😉
    On a more serious note, your excellently written flash brings a tear to my eye. You describe Marnie’s terror so well and I love the last line. ‘Their efforts paid off’. But I also have a tear for the painful memories this gives me of my daughter’s school days. As one with Asperger’s Syndrome, the worst, absolute worst thing for her was to be singled out in class. Having all eyes on her caused her panic and physical illness, but of course nobody understood it, teachers least of all.
    Every single teacher she had said the same thing to me throughout her entire school history: “Claire needs to raise her hand more in class.” Well, she couldn’t, wouldn’t and that was that. But nobody ever took the time to help Claire or to ask the question why does she struggle so much? So many times when I called the school, spoke to her teachers, tried to explain and to ask them for guidance, it was always the same: rebuffed and told that Claire just needed to gain more confidence.
    Well, by the time she reached 18 and barely managed to finish sixth form college, she broke down and is still unable to barely leave the house five years later. I am not blaming anyone here, we were all in the dark, but how I wish my daughter could have had a ‘Marnie’ moment and that some of the other kids could have not sniggered quite so much and that she could have been more encouraged. I still hold in my heart my hopes for my daugther that she will have her moment, like Marnie ❤

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    1. Sherri

      PS I meant to say, thank you for letting us know the meaning of ‘Glossophobia’. Studies have shown that a high percentage of people fear public speaking more than death itself. No wonder we freeze!

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    2. Norah Post author

      Sherri, that is so sad about Claire. It must break your heart. How frustrating to have contacted the school to ask for help and to be rebuffed. Sadly many teachers don’t understand the difficulty experienced by so many, and have no training in how to help those who suffer from anxiety and panic. There seems to be little room for that personal development – just cram in the facts. How distressing that Claire broke down and now finds it difficult to leave the house. I can understand how wonderful it must be when you have days out together. I’m thinking of an occasion you wrote a post about recently, when she met one of her heroes. I hope Claire does have a “Marnie” moment soon and that you can share many more out-of-home experiences soon.
      How soon is Ed the werewolf going to encounter a kangaroo on the road? I think it will definitely be a fun story!
      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, and those of Claire, Sherri. I wish you both many good times ahead. 🙂

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      1. Sherri

        Oh Norah, you are so right, it is precisely why moments such as Claire’s meeting Damien Lewis and coming to London with us mean so much. She is coming out more than she has done for some years and this is all very encouraging. I just wish she had had more support when she was younger. I wish she could have had you as her teacher 🙂 Asperger awareness is growing but there is still a lot that needs to change.
        Haha…now that sounds like a great story, you’ve really got me thinking now 😀
        Thank you so much Norah, you are so kind and thoughtful and I really appreciate your insight and caring words for both Claire and I. Means a lot that… 🙂 ❤ xx

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        1. Norah Post author

          Damien Lewis! I’m sorry I couldn’t remember his name when I wrote the comment. I’m pleased Claire is making progress, but it is a long journey, isn’t it? And I think you are right about Asperger’s. In the past there was little support. The children were labelled as ‘naughty’ and/or the parents ‘bad’. It is a good thing that perception is changing, but much more needs to be done to encourage tolerance, understanding and acceptance. I have far to go in that department myself.
          Thanks for sharing your personal stories. And – I’m looking forward to Ed meets the wayward kangaroo. 🙂

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          1. Sherri

            Haha…well, you are amazing just to remember that post at all, never mind Damien Lewis himself!!
            I think our conversation stirred things up for me Norah, as I ended up writing about Asperger’s for my flash post. You are so right, things are better but we still have such a long way to go. It is a long journey indeed, and I take the smooth times, such as now, relatively speaking, for all they are worth.
            Haha…let’s see 😀

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            1. Norah Post author

              I haven’t read your flash yet. I’m a bit slow making the rounds. I will get to it, and will be very interested to read what you have to say. I’m pleased you are enjoying a smooth ride for now.

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  4. Pingback: Uncommon Deer Tales « Carrot Ranch Communications

  5. macjam47

    I liked that you used Marnie to illustrate the fear of speaking. I was always afraid of standing up in class until I was in high school. I decided that it was time to take control of my fears. I made morning announcements, I visited home rooms to speak about causes, volunteered to teach a section on history for a week for one of my teachers (I was more informed on the particular subject than he was, because it was a special interest of mine), and gave speeches. It took a lot of work for several years, but I soon learned to love public speaking.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Wow, Michelle! Congratulations on making a decision to improve a part of your life that you felt was holding you back. And what a great job you did of it! I’m pleased you learned to love public speaking. Maybe this is something I can work into Marnie’s story too. Thanks for giving me the idea. 🙂

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  6. Charli Mills

    That’s one of the clearest explanations I’ve read for the deer-in-the-headlights phenomenon. While known, i really never understood why. An erratic kangaroo bounding all over the road would be a scary sight!

    A second learning moment from your post is that the fear of public speaking has a term. My boss suffered and would agonize over upcoming speeches, but to hear her talk, you’d have no idea how deep her agony was.

    I’m happy to see Marnie return. This flash feels like a turning point for her and shows that we can grow and learn when others take time to care and nurture despite rocky soil. Like Sarah said, evocative imagery.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Charli. I really appreciate your comment. I’m pleased that I was able to use this opportunity for Marnie to show progress. It took a little thinking, a little meditation, as all do; but I forgot to mention that in my comment when posting on your blog. I always spend a lot of time mulling over your prompts and thinking about the interpretation I will take. Taking the education angle often provides an additional constraint, but that’s one I’ve placed on myself, so – so be it!
      I’m pleased that you are able to learn from my posts. I always learn much from yours. (And actually glossophobia was a new one for me – now I have a name for one of my anxieties!)

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  7. Sarah Brentyn

    I used (in a very different way) Charli’s prompt as metaphor, as well. I love your description of Marnie in this flash. Here: “Her chair scraped as she stood. She grasped the table with trembling hands attempting to still her wobbly legs. They waited. Marnie squeaked. Some looked down, or away. Some sniggered.” So evocative. Beautifully done.
    Many people suffer from fear of public speaking. I am a conundrum as I have an incredible fear of public speaking but have no problem whatsoever standing up in from of a classroom and teaching. Also, I bartended. This is something I’ve written about but never posted or submitted anywhere. It’s interesting.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your encouragement, Sarah – much appreciated. I suffer from that same conundrum as you. I suffer enormous anxiety when faced with public speaking. Even contributing an idea or question at a seminar can be daunting. However in front of a class of year one children I am fine. Sometimes even talking to individuals or small groups can cause me discomfort if I feel I am saying something controversial. It is just as well my embarrassment doesn’t show in a blog post! 🙂

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      1. Sarah Brentyn

        Isn’t that bizarre? I get almost sick with the thought of public speaking or even just going to a large gathering. (Yes, it’s bad.) But teaching… People who know me well often asked how I could do it and the answer was (and is) I really don’t know. Ha! Yes. Discomfort doesn’t show in a blog post. I like that. Mind if I use the phrase?

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        1. Norah Post author

          You are welcome, Sarah. 🙂
          I often think of teaching as performing. Maybe that has something to do with it. I think I would be more nervous with older students, like yours though. I wonder if it is in any way related to how self-reflective (and self-critical) we are.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for linking to that post. I’ll check it out. It is a great message and worth spreading.
      I have a serious public speaking issue! No problem in the year one classroom though! 🙂

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  8. Annecdotist

    I like how you’ve played with Charli’s prompt again and shown us more of Marnie – and the nice twist that it’s not so much her achievement as the achievement of her teachers and classmates.

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  9. Colline

    An understanding and patient teacher can definitely help a child overcome their fear of speaking in front of the class. The best is for the teacher to create a non-threatening environment.

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  10. Bec

    It’s nice to visit Marnie again – and really nice to share in one of the nicer moments in her life! I am pleased her teacher and Jasmine are still being supportive and encouraging. And I think you’ve demonstrated very nicely the power for overcoming a challenge to carry long-lasting positive impacts.

    Public speaking can be so hard for so many people. In some tutorials a couple of years ago where the students had to give a presentation for assessment, in our classes we practiced ‘power posing’ following this remarkable TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en and ‘audience face’ – making sure all those not giving the talk looked supportive and encouraging like Jasmine in your FF!

    Your mention of Charli’s theme for this week makes me think about a piece on equine therapy and “Horses for Hope” – a group which matches people with horses needing rehabilitation with great outcomes for all. Here’s an article: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/horses-and-healing/6677092

    And of course there are the rescue dogs with people returned from serving in the armed forces: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-24/rescue-dogs-helping-ex-servicemen-recover-from-ptsd/6414618

    I can certainly attest to how looking after a little dog has changed my view on the world and my life for the better – even when we’ve had a few bumps along the way!

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    1. Annecdotist

      Oh, the audience face: I don’t remember how why or when I developed mine but every time I’m in an audience (if the lights are on) I’m nodding and smiling and being encouraging. Maybe it’s so they’ll look at me more, or so I don’t fall asleep!

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    2. Norah Post author

      Thanks Bec, for another thoughtful and enlightening post with lots of links to extend our knowledge and thinking. Where would my education be without you?
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash and am quite interested in the idea of “audience face”. I guess it has to be better than yawning or constantly checking the phone for messages, which can be very off-putting.
      What a wonderful thing is the rehabilitation of horses, and the rescue dogs for returned servicemen.
      I have seen the way your wonderful puppy Ziggy has flourished under your loving care after his unpleasant beginning. A little nurturing goes a long way. 🙂

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  11. desleyjane

    Nice story Norah. I used to be just like Marnie and petrified of public speaking. Although not at school. At school I would always want to say the answer. But as I got older I withdrew a little. But now? I love it. Put me in front of a room and I’ll talk and talk. LOL so embarrassing.

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