Cognitive Story Audio:
So Hard to Speak Up in Class
This is a cognitive story for children. The purpose is to help children learn how to handle different situations.
A cognitive story teaches children how to think rationally about problems that commonly occur in childhood.
These stories are often good at bedtime because the end of the story focuses on relaxing and drifting off to sleep.
This audio is a conversation between a wise old parrot and a child. The parrot advises the child when the child is feeling afraid of
what others might be thinking when answering questions in class. The story the audio is based on is also listed below so that it can be read to a child.
As told by Carol Watkins, professional storyteller
. Written by Dr. Monica Frank.
Transcript: So Hard to Speak Up in Class
As you lie in bed you think back to your day in school. You think about how hard it is for you to speak up in class. When the teacher asks a question, you feel scared that she might call on you. You lie back on your pillows and try to go to sleep. But you keep wondering why it is hard for you to talk in class when the other kids don't have a problem. It is hard to relax and drift off to sleep when you are confused. You are hoping that your friend, the parrot, will stop by because you need to talk.
Soon, you hear a familiar “squawk.” Opening your eyes you see your friend the parrot on the windowsill with its wings spread as if it just landed. You notice the deep blue, the bright yellows, greens, and reds of its feathers as it shakes its wings and folds them back.
The parrot squawks “Hey, what's new?”
You say, “I've been thinking about some things and need to talk.”
You follow your friend for a walk in your special place. Today you are having trouble keeping up with your friend. Instead of flying at your shoulder, the parrot circles high through the trees, the yellow, blue, green, and red of its feathers contrasting against the silver leafed trees and the pink sky, and then the parrot skims low across the lavender grass. You skip along the winding path noticing the tinges of red and orange in the pink sky with occasional wisps of clouds of all colors floating lazily across the sky.
Your friend is leading you to a new place in the park. As you burst through an opening in the trees, you see a pool of water with a waterfall cascading down a rocky cliff. As the sun shines brightly on the waterfall, you see a rainbow crossing the pool. You hear the water tumbling over the boulders. The parrot circles round and round and finally settles down on a boulder next to the edge of the pool.
You climb on to the boulder feeling the warmth of the sun on the smooth surface of the boulder. You lie back just listening to the sound of the waterfall and looking up to the sky through the trees. The rainbow sparkles high above. You can see the different shapes of the clouds. You hear the birds chirping in the trees and occasionally see a flash of color as a bird flies from one tree to another.
Your friend asks, “What have you been thinking about?”
You explain, “When my teacher is asking questions in class, I get real scared that she will call on me. My stomach hurts and my mouth gets dry. I feel like I won't be able to talk.”
The parrot questions, “What happens when she does call on you? Are you able to talk?”
“Yes, but I'm still scared.”
“What is there to be afraid of?”
You say, “Well, one time I couldn't answer, I mumbled 'I don't know' and I think everyone laughed at me.”
“Does that happen every time she calls on you?” the parrot asks.
“No, but I'm afraid it will.”
“What do you mean that you THINK they laughed? Did you hear them laugh?”
“No, but they seemed to be laughing.”
“Why are you afraid of others laughing at you?”
“Well, it hurts, because they think I'm stupid.”
“You're not stupid,” says the parrot. “So why does it matter if someone thinks you are? People think all kinds of things. What other people think doesn't make you bad or stupid. Instead, what people think tells us about them. What I mean is that someone who laughs at other people is a mean person. Why should you care what a mean person might think? They just think mean things, anyway.”
You say, “But not all the kids are mean. Some of them are nice. And they think I'm stupid.”
The parrot squawks, “But, no! You said you THOUGHT they laughed at you and think you're stupid. You don't really know that. You are only thinking that.”
“What do you mean?” you ask.
“I mean that most of the time the other kids in your class aren't even thinking of you. Some of them are thinking that they are glad they weren't called on because they don't know the answer. Other ones feel afraid to speak up just like you. Other ones are daydreaming about something else. Most people are thinking more about themselves than they are thinking about you. So if you think that they are thinking about you, most of the time you are wrong.”
“But it seems like they are thinking about me!”
“Only because that is what you are afraid of and so you think it is true when it's not.”
“I don't understand.” You listen to the sound of the waterfall as your friend talks to you. The sound of the water is soothing and you can feel your breathing slowing down and your body relaxing.
“Have you ever been afraid of something and thought you saw it but it wasn't really there?”
“That's because when you are afraid of something, a lot of times it seems real even when it is not. You look for signs of what you are afraid of which causes you to believe it is real.” The parrot continues to explain, “You don't really know what anyone else is thinking unless they tell you or show you in some way. Even if someone smiles when you are answering a question, it doesn't mean they are laughing at you. They could be encouraging you or they might just be glad they didn't have to answer or maybe they like you.”
“You mean the other kids aren't really listening to what I'm saying?”
“They might be listening to you but they are often thinking about themselves.” The parrot continues, “And besides that, what if you did say something really stupid and the other kids laughed?”
“That would be horrible,” you say.
“Only if you make it horrible,” says the parrot. “Haven't you ever seen someone say something silly and then laugh about it.”
“Yeah, but they're trying to be silly.”
“No, not all the time,” explains the parrot. “They just know that if you can laugh at yourself when you make a mistake, then others like you more.”
“Why would they like me more?”
“Because everyone makes mistakes. And people usually like other people who are like them. So if you make a mistake and don't get upset by it, they know that you won't make fun of them for making mistakes. That means they are more likely to be your friend because they are comfortable around you.”
You say, “Wow, this is a lot to think about. You mean that other kids are afraid of speaking up in class, too?”
“Yes,” says the parrot. “A lot of kids feel the way you do. But they speak up anyway because they know it will get easier the more they do it.”
You start walking back down the path with the parrot flying next to your shoulder. All around you the sunlight is sparkling and butterflies are fluttering from flower to flower. You think about what the parrot has told you. You understand that others aren't paying as close attention to you as it seems. You don't have to be so afraid of being laughed at because everybody makes mistakes. When you get to your room, you snuggle back into your bed feeling drowsy and close your eyes.
Your mind is a little quieter now because what you are feeling is normal. A lot of kids are afraid to speak up in class. You know you can relax a little now and fall asleep. You focus on taking a slow breath and noticing the muscles in your chest move with each breath. Those muscles begin to relax with each breath you take. You notice the air coming into your body as you take a slow breath and you notice the air leaving your body. You feel your muscles relaxing more and more.
You snuggle deeper in your cozy bed. As you continue to breathe slowly your body relaxes. You feel yourself beginning to become drowsy. It feels so good to snuggle in your bed! You feel yourself drifting, drifting, drowsy, and relaxing. You feel as if you are drifting off to sleep, so drowsy, feels so good.
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