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Does Well in Small Groups
by Sandy Lubert

copyright Sandy Lubert
Photo © Sandy Lubert

Lately, I seem to be hearing the phrase “I don’t do well in large groups” more and more frequently. Have certain people always felt this way, and they’re just starting to feel comfortable saying so? Am I just meeting more of this kind of person? Does it have to do with getting older?

I have a dear friend who feels this way. She’s not claustrophobic, there’s no real psychological or physiological basis to her discomfort; she just feels anxious in crowds, or even in gatherings involving more than a few friends. She doesn’t hesitate to share this information, and those of us who know and love her respect her needs, and we do our best to accommodate them.

Two of my three children are similarly ill-at-ease in large groups. People like to label them as “shy”, but they’re not. One recently performed an entire movie scene (which included singing a song) for a family friend; the other will often make up jokes and tell them to people at our local library, etc. They just really prefer to interact with people one-on-one, or maybe two-on-one, and they are more comfortable if they can do this in a relatively quiet, calm setting.

Imagine how difficult school must have been for these guys! Every weekday morning, they had to wake up knowing that their days would involve constant “group activity,” interacting with lots of people, and relatively little quiet or calm. It’s so unfortunate that kids who “don’t do well in large groups” aren’t able to get their needs met at school.

Although they don’t talk much about it, I know that school was not fun for my children. They found it stressful and discouraging. They came to dread it. Last week, one of my sons took a rare trip down memory lane and told me the thing he missed most about school. I was surprised, and eager to hear what it was. “Head lice inspection day,” he told me, adding, “Yeah, that was really relaxing!”

When she wrote this article in 2006, Sandy Lubert was living, laughing, and learning with her husband, their three sons, five fish, many sea-monkeys, two rats, and a dog. All but the fish have a good sense of humor. She loves unschooling, reading, and writing both poetry and music. 

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