Anxiety and Hardships

Larry Good

Larry Good is the owner of NW Training & Consulting, LLC in Kelso Washington. He has had a 30 plus year career in military intelligence, information technology & specializes in cyber security with a sideline in physical security & public safety training.

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55 Responses

  1. Chris
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    Kid was just asking people to bear with him, and you wrote an entire post about how bad that is, because he didn’t ask in a language you understand or appreciate. Strong “old man yells at cloud” vibes, man.Report

  2. Philip H
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    Your training and work experiences are something that only what – 2% of Americans have had? You might want to rethink whether its the best model, much less the only model.

    And a great many people would never equate answering a question in a public setting to public speaking. Yes, one can train for public speaking, and yes, arguably one can “train” to answer questions in academic settings. But they aren’t the same, and conflating them isn’t really helping your argument.Report

    • Chris in reply to Philip H
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      Especially in middle school or high school, where you’re answering questions in front of peers in high-anxiety and high-pressure social contexts, with all the adolescent angst that comes with that. Heaven forbid a kid ask people to bear with him for a moment while he gathers himself.Report

  3. Pinky
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    You used an interesting word there, “cool”. People think of it as meaning something socially prized, but it really refers to being laid back. Not that a person should be laid back in the face of injustice; there are times when a person should get hot under the collar. But coolness is the opposite of panicking. The James Bond one-liner shows that even in the midst of crisis, he’s not lost in his passions. Bond is an assassin, and assassins have to maintain their composure.

    Coolness isn’t the only virtue, but it’s a virtue.Report

  4. Chip Daniels
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    says:

    In my field, we have meetings where a lot of technical questions are raised, and like that young person, I am often called upon for an answer.
    And like that young person I often feel a sense of momentary panic and anxiety, being put on the spot in front of a boss or client.

    But since I’m older, I’ve learned to have the courage to say simply, “I don’t know the answer, but will find out.”

    Its pretty unusual to work in a field where correct split second life or death answers are demanded, and those people are most often given unusual and specialized training for that very reason.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      When I worked for the state legislative staff, one of the things that the training for new analysts pounded on was, “Don’t make stuff up, tell them you don’t know and that you’ll get back to them.” One of the things that was considered when they were promoting people was how well they anticipated the committee’s questions so the answer could be, “That’s an excellent question, Senator. If you’ll turn to page A-6 in the briefing document…”

      During the later part of my technical career, under some circumstances, I might say, “I don’t know. Would you like me to speculate?”Report

  5. Brandon Berg
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    says:

    I used to know a guy named Larry Fine. So just be aware that I have certain expectations for you.Report

  6. InMD
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    says:

    Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.Report

  7. InMD
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    says:

    On a more serious and responsive note, my high school had elective ‘speech’ classes teaching the art of public speaking. It approached the issue as a learned skill to be practiced as opposed to an innate personality quality. I took both semesters of it and recall it being quite good and one of those rare high school courses that proved useful for real life. There was eventually a requirement to give 2 or 3 speeches but you worked up to it with games and low stakes exetcises. Even the people who you knew weren’t innately good or comfortable with it really opened up as time went on.

    Anyway instead of making a pathology out of the situation I’d add it to the long and probably growing list of things it would be useful to teach instead of just expect.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to InMD
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      My small Nebraska city high school required all students to take “speech” in the public speaking sense for sophomore English. Really valuable experience. I always had “stage butterflies” later in life for big talks, but I wasn’t ever afraid.Report

      • InMD in reply to Michael Cain
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        It’s definitely really useful and I would hope gets even people who don’t love it over the terror they might feel.

        I recall the first ‘big assignment’ was to just pick a song you like and read the lyrics out loud to the class. Being high school people of course picked whatever the most risqué song they thought they could get away with and the silliness set the tone in a very positive way. It helped too that the teacher was younger and good at building a rapport.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to InMD
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          says:

          We had to recite a poem from memory in ninth grade. Being That Guy, I memorized the Raven, but my teacher cut me off after a couple of stanzas.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to InMD
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          says:

          Sometime during the spring when I was a college freshman I was one of the people the school invited to come back and talk to juniors about preparing for college. One of them asked me to recommend classes. I was a math/science geek, so everyone was surprised when the things I ticked off on my fingers were: (a) typing, (b) Mr. Douglas’s speech class, and (c) Ms. Morgan’s composition class. (Typing because (b) and (c) were miserable if you tried to do it all in longhand.)

          You didn’t read in Ms Morgan’s class, you wrote. One or two things due every week, and she criticized everything. Sometimes it looked like she’d just dumped red ink on the paper. Essays of various lengths, for various purposes. Short stories. Poetry. A final 25-page term paper.

          When I went back to graduate school a dozen years ago to get an MA in Public Policy, I was truly shocked at the number of students who were coming straight into the program from undergraduate school that had never had to write a paper or give a presentation.Report

          • Chris in reply to Michael Cain
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            Wild. It’s extremely unlikely anyone would make it to grad school without having written many papers, and given at least a few presentations, now. Every school I know has writing component requirements for graduation.

            And of course, typing is no longer really a thing in secondary school (my school had two separate courses, Typing and Keyboard), because by the time they’re in secondary school they can all type faster than any of us.Report

            • Chris in reply to Chris
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              I will add that, while it’s been a while since I have graded undergraduate papers in a writing component class, over the time that I graded them, they got worse every year, as did the emails I got from students. I started to feel old really fast as text-speak began to take over the emails (and even some of the papers), because I frequently couldn’t figure out what was being said.Report

            • Michael Cain in reply to Chris
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              I wondered how they got past the GREs. By then there was a writing component included in the tests. But I was unusually cautious (for me) about offending them so didn’t ask.

              When I went to work at Bell Labs in 1978 there was still a typing pool the engineers were supposed to use. As an engineer I wasn’t allowed to have a typewriter in my office, so I wrote my technical/engineering notes at home where I could use a typewriter. The typists looked at me strangely when I gave them typed material to retype.

              UNIX was just coming out of the research division, and had text formatting tools, so I jumped on that. At one point I was almost in trouble because my department head decided that what I must be doing was writing my papers longhand, then wasting time typing them into the UNIX tools myself. He didn’t believe me when I told him I composed at the keyboard. So I opened an editor, looked across the terminal at him, and said, “Dictate.” He talked, I typed it. Then spun the terminal around so he could see it. Then in case he had missed the point, said, “It’s easier when it’s me talking in my head.”Report

          • Brandon Berg in reply to Michael Cain
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            says:

            Was the typing class a full semester-long class? I get that it was harder to learn before computers and typing training software, but even back then, I feel like “Read a pamphlet explaining the basics and start practicing” should have been all it would take.Report

            • Michael Cain in reply to Brandon Berg
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              says:

              I probably phrased it as “learn to type”. Myself, I took typing as a summer school class in a different school system the summer after I finished sixth grade. That was the earliest they would let me in. Mom wouldn’t let me use the typewriter until I’d had a class, and I desperately wanted at it.Report

            • veronica d in reply to Brandon Berg
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              Yeah, I took a full typing class back in high school. We started with home row and did drills. At some point you learned about the shift key. In any even, I can touch type reasonably fast, so I’m glad I took the course.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to veronica d
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                Full typing? All the arithmetic drills for centering lines of text?Report

              • veronica d in reply to Michael Cain
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                Oh yeah, we had to learn to center stuff. I have vague recollections of learning about “picas” and all that stuff, although I remember almost none of it. Just the touch typing part, though, proved very useful all through my life — for example, I’m typing right now!Report

              • Reformed Republican in reply to veronica d
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                I had a similar class in high school. 1995, I think. It was done on computers with word processing software, but we were taught how to manually center and things like that as well. I don’t remember most of that, but learning to touch type made my life much easier.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d
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                I remember those, on an Apple IIe.

                Side note: Hey V, been a minute, how ya doing?Report

              • veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon
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                I’m good. I’m back in the office, which is taking some getting used to, but it’s nice to be out and about. How about you?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d
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                Not bad, just finished my last exam for my last class for this certificate program*. Now I have a whole summer of getting used to my ADD meds and goofing off with the kid to look forward to.

                Also talking to a startup about a job in the fall when I’m done with my sabbatical.

                *I think I need to write a post about my thoughts about that.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD
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      Once upon a time, I placed 2nd in my state HS competition for public speaking (it was called Forensics back then).

      Only took 2 years of practice getting to that point, but I’ve never had stage fright since!Report

  8. Kazzy
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    says:

    “ You don’t ridicule a student for not having an answer, or even for having a wrong answer, particularly if it is reasoned.”
    You shouldn’t, but it can happen. And likely will happen via peers. I still remember some of the, er, dumber answers kids gave in high school because, boy, did we laugh.

    “But you don’t reward them for not trying to answer, and you don’t feed into a neurosis by tacitly accepting it.”
    Do we have any idea what the teacher’s response was?

    Also, “panicking” is not a clinical term. There’s a frickin’ emo band named Panic at the Disco fercryingoutloud.

    Think about all this kid demonstrated… self-awareness, persistence, courage… in my class, I would reward that. I’d have probably said, “Take your time,” or “Sounds like you need a moment to gather yourself… raise your hand when you’re ready.”

    Also, the framing of “called on” implies he may not have volunteered to answer. How long was there between the posing of the question and him being called on? Did he volunteer or was he cold called? Good practice would encourage an instructor to build wait time in before calling on anyone and avoid cold calling unless an explicit goal was being able to answer quickly on the spot (which is unlikely).Report

    • Pinky in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      I think you teach substantially younger people than the author is picturing in this scenario. That’s got to matter.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Pinky
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        Yes and no.

        There really is just a lot we don’t know about the scenario, which is why commenting on it as the author did just feels pretty out of place.

        But there are also certain principals of good practice that generally apply regardless of the age of the students.

        Did the student volunteer to answer? That matters a ton… at all ages.
        How long was there between when the teacher posed the question and when the student was called on? That matters a ton… at all ages.
        What’s the subject matter? What form of answer was expected (e.g., a Yes/No response vs a long explanation)?
        Was processing speed something the teacher was looking to assess and/or help develop?

        Like… we don’t know any of that. We have a Tweet. That wasn’t even written by the person who we are discussing.

        The analysis here seems to assume the best of the teacher and the worst of the students.

        And it was written by someone who, from his bio, I assume is most often in a role more akin to the teacher than the students. Though also someone who doesn’t seem to understand basic principles of instruction and assessment. But I could be wrong… we simply don’t have enough info here.Report

    • Chris in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      This.

      The kid did nothing wrong. “Encouraging” it would not amount to “feed[ing] into a neurosis.” The whole post seems to have taken offense to the way kids talk these days, and to the very idea that someone might ask for a bit of patience and understanding. It’s gross.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I mean, if you aren’t going to be perfect in succeeding (e.g., immediately answering the question exactly right), at least be perfect in failing (e.g., pausing in a way that doesn’t offend the author’s sensibilities).

        It’d be interesting to talk about the mental health of folks who write long diatribes on the internet about others who upset them, have the opportunity to push “delete” on those posts, but seem to lack the self-control to do so.Report

        • Chris in reply to Kazzy
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          says:

          And this is the second post of a series! I’m inclined to think it’s just grumpy old man talk, in the sense that he simply doesn’t like the way kids are these days, and it drives him to the point of writing two posts about it, but we definitely should not be encouraging that neurosis.Report

        • Pinky in reply to Kazzy
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          says:

          Did Larry do something to you personally? First you say that he judged the anecdote wrongly, then when I questioned you about it you said we don’t have enough information to judge the anecdote at all, and now you’re questioning his mental health. You do get that, in any other context, you’d be infuriated at the questioning of someone’s mental health in a comment section?Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Pinky
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            says:

            He seemed to interpret the very little information we were provided wrongly, yes.

            And more broadly, we don’t have enough information to really make judgements one way or another. Jumping to conclusions based on a misreading of a Tweet is… well… weird.

            And I don’t really want to discuss Larry’s mental health. But there is a rich irony to discussing how mentally weak people are while penning long-winded diatribes about Tweets.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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              says:

              But, to offer a bit more detail, I do think it pretty annoying when someone outside the world of education decides to lecture us on what teachers and/or students ought to be doing.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                I find it shocking when teachers assume they’re above critique. And twice now you’ve raised Larry’s mental health, so you can’t really claim you don’t want to talk about it, can you?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Pinky
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                says:

                Above critique? Certainly not.

                But… pardon me if I snicker at someone writing over 1000 words on a topic they clearly know very little about.Report

  9. LeeEsw
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    says:

    Let me tell you that real like closing statements in court are a lot less elegant than the movies will have you believe.Report

  10. fillyjonk
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    I’ve thought about this some over the past day. I’m a college professor, at a university that historically serves “underrepresented” groups (mostly: the lower SES cohort and Native people). We have a wide diversity of students coming in, including people who don’t have great high school backgrounds (small, rural, southern).

    I’ve softened my stance a lot on speaking in class and similar things since I’ve been here, just through gaining experience. I don’t randomly call on people to discuss (though in one of my classes I do note that if someone does not volunteer ANYTHING during the class discussions, ever, they will receive a lower grade). I do have a project-presentation in my upper division class, because we consider it necessary to have students gain writing and speaking experience, and this is a class all our majors take. I have them plan, conduct, and present on a small but original research project. The last week of class is structured similarly to a scientific conference, where people are scheduled (and timed) speakers, and they present their research to the class. I do give them guidance on what’s expected, and talk about presentations I have seen (and presented) at conferences. The idea is: many of you will need to do this in the future, some of you if you go on to grad school; some of you in your careers.

    It’s mixed results. Some people who maybe don’t do so well on exams really shine at doing and presenting research. Other people stumble through but manage. I admit I am more generous in my grading of the presentations than I am of the final papers because I account for nervousness and lack of experience (by their junior year, they SHOULD have written up research, and they SHOULD have done review papers before).

    I tell them I try to make the setting as friendly as possible because part of the purpose of this is to gain experience. I allow the rest of the class to ask questions after the presentations (just like in a real conference) but reserve the right to cut off any hostile questions or “I have more of a comment than a question” things. I have never had to use that; the questions the students ask of their peers are usually of the “hey I did a similar project and saw xyz, did you see anything like that” or “tell me a little more about the particular technique you mentioned” variety

    Very occasionally I have a student just not show up to present. I try to leave a couple slots open on the last day in case someone had car trouble or was ill, but in some cases it really is someone with a public speaking phobia who just won’t present. They don’t *fail* – I have the point system in the class structured so that won’t happen – but often it will knock people down a grade, so, for example, you can’t earn an A if you don’t present.

    I feel bad when people choose not to present – I gave them every chance in the friendliest milieu I can provide, and it’s also well known I am not particularly hardnosed about presentation grading (though usually people seem to try to do their best). But I wouldn’t want to humiliate people for that. Because I have my own discomforts and phobias, and sometimes it’s just….not possible to confront that phobia at a particular point in time.

    I suspended presentations during the pandemic; in spring 2020 we were all off campus and many of the students had dodgy and poor internet access; in fall 2020 we went all virtual following thanksgiving week and I just didn’t want to mess with it, and in spring 2021 I was still unwilling to chance it (it seemed likely we’d have to go all virtual on a dime; we did not, but I’m glad I didn’t bother with it). I have since reinstituted them. This spring’s set were not as good as in the past; I do think a lot of students are suffering both from two years of mostly-virtual learning (it’s easy to get into bad habits; I have) and also I think a lot of people are just demoralized and exhausted right now. I did see the grades were a bit lower (even with my generosity) this spring.

    I honestly don’t know if my system and how I run it is good or not; I’m sure some people would say I’m being too easy. But we’re mostly trying to do our best here in difficult circumstances.Report

    • Chris in reply to fillyjonk
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      says:

      It sounds good to me. I don’t think there’s any perfect way to do it, given that some people really just won’t be able to present, do to paralyzing phobias. Sounds like you’ve thought a lot about it, and have come up with something that works fairly well for your material and your students. Can’t ask for much more than that.

      I’ve talked to faculty who have methods for dealing with this (e.g., an alternative method of presentation, or a different type of project altogether), on a case by case basis, and it would be absurd to call what they’re doing “feed[ing] into a neurosis by tacitly accepting it,” because “feeing into a neurosis” is a ridiculous and harmful way of thinking about mental illness. These methods won’t work for every type of class, every subject matter, or every instructor, though.

      Most schools of sufficient size also have significant, usually “free” (not counting tuition and fees) counseling resources, and phobias like this are highly treatable. That some kids still don’t get treatment for them suggests that we’re not doing enough mental health education and outreach, but that’s not on instructors/teachers, that’s on universities, and ultimately, all of us as a society.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to fillyjonk
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      says:

      Do college professors get much training with instructional methods? If you don’t have a background or degree in education but rather are an expert in your discipline, what support is there for figuring stuff like the above out? Sounds like you have a really thoughtful approach soup to nuts!Report

      • dhex in reply to Kazzy
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        says:

        it depends on type of study, the program they get their phd in, the nature of the institution they’re teaching at, etc.

        overall, the nature of college instruction has significantly changed in the past 20 years. some good, some less so, but that’s not my area of expertise – as faculty would be quick to remind me.

        thankfully, they’re often very certain that marketing and communications are an additional area of expertise for them, and are always ready to be helpful with advice. 😐Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to Kazzy
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        No, we don’t. A lot of my “training” is experience and seeing what does and doesn’t work. I was a teaching assistant for years in grad school and we did get TA training, and there were additional optional seminars on best practices (which I took because I figured I was bound to be a professor).

        Other than that, there’s not a lot of guidance other than people in DIFFERENT disciplines from us (or in the admin, so people not used to the classroom) telling us what they THINK we should be doing.

        I’ve long said anyone planning on being a professor should do coursework in some basic human psychology and also in things like de-escalating situations. I’ve had “classes” in “how to deal with angry people” for example, that have come in handy. I mean, it wouldn’t save my life if a shooter came in my classroom, but I’ve managed to de-escalate people who show up angry to my office because, for example, they plagiarized a paper and I caught them.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to fillyjonk
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          says:

          Very interesting.

          As an educator, I find it kind of shocking there isn’t more (or, really, any) emphasis put on that aspect for professors.

          As a former college student, it does jibe with SOME of the professors I had.

          Thanks for the insights! And for working as hard as you do for your students.Report

  11. Oscar Gordon
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    says:

    As I’ve mentioned, my son has ADD. My wife, after living with me for 28 years now, once my son had the diagnosis, looked at the kid, looked at me, said, “Damn if you don’t have a lot of the same quirks the kid has, perhaps you should see someone about that.” So dad has ADD, which once I started going down the list, makes a hell of a lot of sense as I look back over the years, especially given the struggles I’ve had over the years in school.

    I wonder, these days, how many kids, and adults, exist with undiagnosed ADD. I read the OP and thought, the kid panicked because his brain had wandered off (as mine does constantly when I’m not medicated – Adderall; good stuff!), was suddenly put on spot, and had to drag his brain back to a different focus. It’s causes a moment of panic, because it’s an effort, and if you have ADD, it takes longer to switch gears, which makes you feel stupid.

    Not a major panic, more akin to the car in front of you stopping hard while you are changing the radio station or telling the kid to stop asking you about the details of general relativity in heavy traffic. Your heart skips a beat while you react.

    It’s not a problem unless you freeze or fall apart for it.

    Molehills, mountains…Report

  12. Mike Schilling
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    He could ask for more time to think about it.

    Isn’t that what “Hang on” is doing?Report

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