The Quiet Ones
For the past decade, since the Columbine High School shootings, there has been no greater paranoia among our society and especially in our schools. Students are extremely cautious when picking who their friends are. Teachers are told to be aware of certain individuals in the classroom. Parents are on the look out for these same individuals when they pick their son or daughter up from school. Who exactly are these individuals, and why are so many people suspicious about them? These individuals are at school everyday. They are few and do not appear or try to be very noticeable, yet ironically in today’s paranoid world; they are put under the most scrutiny than any other student. You don’t really pay attention to them, however when you do you wonder why they don’t act like everyone else, and why they never share their feelings, or why they refuse to work in groups, and more importantly why they seem like they’re not there.
These individuals are labeled the “quiet ones” and although they are friendly and harmless individuals for the most part, every time a student, or a parent, or a teacher sees these individuals, they immediately associate them with the individuals who went on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School. “Be careful about those quiet ones” is the common phrase parents tell their children, because of the misguided idea that our society has accepted, that all kids who are quiet or shy are automatically deemed a sociopath and a killer. I believe that this classification of individuals in our schools is an unfair discrimination, and further evidence that our society is so shallow, that they judge individuals’ external appearances before searching for what’s on the inside.
I’ve personally witnessed this discrimination as it started happening to me my freshman year and continues to happen to me today. Whenever my parents meet with my teachers for parent-teacher conferences, almost every time the teacher will say, “Alex is very quiet” or “He’s so quiet, I wish he shared more of his feelings in class.” I don’t deny this at all as I often give a similar description of myself. This common description of me has its history. Before I moved to Illinois, when I lived in Indiana, I was very immature. I behaved in a certain way because I wanted attention, and I thought by acting immaturely I could get attention. I hit a turning point the summer before my freshman year when I was about to transfer to my new high school. I quickly realized that acting this way just made me look foolish, and that in high school I was going to act completely to the opposite of how I acted in junior high. The result was, I completely shut down. I got to my new high school, I was selective about my friends, and I did not talk a lot when people tried to engage in conversation, or work in groups very often. This did not mean I did not want to meet others or contribute to class; I was (as expected of a transfer student) just shy. As a result teachers grew suspicious of me. At one point in time I stopped going to lunch because I wanted more time to study. When I was in the Library, people (teachers mainly) started asking me questions like “Are you feeling okay?” or “Why do you look so upset.” My response to each one was “I’m fine” and “I’m not upset.”
Later in the year my relationship with one of my teachers soured. Although I got along with most of my other teachers and bonded with some of them very well, my Latin teacher had a very poor opinion of me as a person. She would berate me after class when she noticed I wouldn’t work in groups, and was adamant that I make myself look like I was more involved in class. Strangely enough at the same time my counselor started talking to me about this and told me that my Latin Teacher had informed him about her problems she had with me. This troubled me and as I contemplated this, I realized that these meetings with my counselor were just after the tragic campus shootings at West Virginia University where the killer was a quiet individual or a “loner.”
I realized that the schools nationwide were on the lookout for individuals like this and that this was the reason for the meeting with my counselor. I immediately explained to my counselor and my Latin Teacher that I was not miserable or depressed, that I was doing fine and that the reason I didn’t work in groups often was because I was a little shy and also because I worked more efficiently on my own. I also noticed that some kids were reluctant to be my friend because of my personality, which I regretted, but at the same time it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. This made me more aware of this particular discrimination against kids who are quiet. To this day I am cognoscente of it and I try to present myself as more cheerful, however sometimes I don’t like putting on a mask so to speak. I want to be able to act normally without trying to meet the standards of some ill-conceived societal law.
Just because an individual doesn’t talk as much or as loud you do, or might come across as more serious than you doesn’t make them weird or antisocial as some kids think. It means that they keep their thoughts to themselves and don’t express their opinions or emotions as liberally as you do. If you take the time to understand these individuals, you may find that they share common interests with you or are just as friendly as most people. I believe that society should make an effort to understand these individuals, and I hope that people will look at them not as an outsider but rather as just another member of their community.
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