So, I suppose I learned from my formative years that defense was frightening. Trying to keep a calm environment is essential to my inner balance. As a result, the 'messy learning' and chaos that results from allowing a classroom of high energy middle schoolers to argue the finer points of questions that have no answers is the height of discomfort for me. Trying to strike a balance for students who thrive on debate and those who cower from it is more than a little challenging. While I am a creative thinker, I also thrive on highly structured and organized situations. I watched a student who completely disengaged from a lesson because it was so far out of her comfort zone. I would have been that girl. I did not force her to participate in the conversation her group was having, but am still perplexed as to whether the value of the lesson would have been worth trying to push her a little bit to voice her opinions. My inner child wanted to protect her from the barrage of voices and dissenting views.
I know that if the conversation was one on one, she would have been more comfortable sharing. She's a sensitive young lady, and the topic, euthanasia, compounded her anxiety. But we cannot hide from conflict, and we cannot be protected indefinitely from difficult subjects. Our classroom environment is a safe and nurturing one for these issues. I know there are no easy answers here. I just hope that teachers who thrive on "peopling" (extroversion) will be sensitive to the needs of their counterparts. Being an introvert in an extroverted world can be exhausting and frightening. Don't assume that the shy student is not internalizing the lesson. Know that she or he is analyzing and contemplating. You just don't hear it. Do consider alternatives such as letting her write about the issue rather than talk. More than anything though, be kind.