Many years ago, I was chosen to be in an elementary school group where they would give us an extra book to read and then pull us out of class to discuss it as a group. It was a group intended to challenge kids who could read easily. I loved to read, and I enjoyed the extra reading time, so I was happy to be given an extra book to read during class.
When the time came for the first discussion group, the teacher put our desks in a circle and told us all that she was going to keep track of who participated. The teacher ended up sitting in the desk next to me, and I watched as she wrote down the name of each child who contributed to the discussion. Because the kids all knew she was writing names down, many of them raised their hands and offered comments that either did or didn’t contribute to the topic at hand, just so the teacher would write their names. Other times, the teacher would call on people and ask them questions and then write their names down. I sat there quietly, listening to the conversation, making my own opinions, having my own discussion in my head depending on whether or not I agreed with the other comments, and not saying a word. The teacher never called on me, and I was relieved.
The next time we all met again to discuss another book, the teacher announced to the class that everyone had participated, except me. She said she must have forgotten about me because I was being so quiet. All the eyes in the circle of desks turned to look at me, and I felt my cheeks get hot as I looked down at my desk. The teacher told the class how important it was that we participate so she knew we were listening and paying attention and to show that we understood what we were reading.
Even as this much-younger version of myself, I knew that she was making an assumption there. I had been listening closely. I had been paying attention. I was following along with the discussion and having opinions and ideas and thoughts about it all, I simply didn’t raise my hand and share what was going on in my head.