By now, school is well underway for nearly every school and student across the country. By now, teachers and school staff likely have a fairly good read on their students, and who is an extrovert, and who is an introvert. There’s been a lot in the news this year about introverts and extroverts, and the pros and cons of each. Most school settings are a great environment for extroverts, with things like group activities and class participation coming very naturally. That’s not unlike the real world, and it’s true that students have to be prepared for the real world, whether their natural instinct is aligned with that or not. However, it is also important to note that introverts are armed with strengths as well, and instead of trying to turn introverts into extroverts, we must value their strengths, and help them develop.
While Jessica Lahey argues that class participation grades are essential because introverts need to speak up for themselves, it’s important that all aspects of introversion be addressed. As an introvert, I can say unequivocally, speaking up for myself is not now, nor has it ever been, an issue. However, I can identify with those who find incessant group projects, constant visual and audio stimulation, and chaotic atmospheres disruptive to their productivity and creativity, because I found the same to be true throughout my education. I completely understand those who say they like people, and enjoy being around them, but then need space and quiet; who like music and bright colors, but are most focused and productive alone, in a quiet room; who enjoy brainstorming in groups, but are only truly creative when allowed to take that initial brainstorm, and expound upon it internally; and who have thoughts, opnions, and interpretations on everything, but like to mull over something and come to a thoughtful conclusion before ever uttering a word.
Students around the world are woven from this same yarn, and it's not something that needs to be overcome or changed. So, as this year begins, here are a few things to consider for those students on how to engage them, how to prepare them for the real world while acknowledging their own talents, and how to let those introverted students know they are of value.
From the Association of American Educations, “Tips for Teaching Introverted Students”, these tips are aimed at garnering greater participation from introverted students. The full article provides details on the reasoning behind these tips, and how to achieve them.
- Make the lesson deep and meaningful
- Give them time to formulate their thoughts
- Give them plenty of time to be alone
- Give them alternate means of participation
From Concordia University, Journal of News and Resources for Teachers, “Motivating Introverted Students to Excel in the Classroom”, these tips focus on active and effective techniques to engage introverted students. From my experiences, I can tell you these tips are on target.
- Utilize a mixture of large and small group projects as well as individual work time.
- Call on a different student every three minutes, giving everyone a chance to talk casually.
- Include a mixture of introverts and extroverts in groups. Introverted group members will: quietly lead, convey their thoughts in a clear and logical manner, explain the material to the group, keep everyone on track, and bring depth to the conversation.
- Recognize introverts privately. While extroverts thrive on public recognition and praise, introverts prefer private praise and recognition, i.e. comments on submitted school work or praise after class.
- Be aware of each student, as introverts quickly feel devalued when they’re unappreciated or unnoticed by their teachers.
The Washington Post article, “The challenge of the introverted student” by Mark Phillips, professor emeritus of secondary education at San Francisco State University, provides some teacher insight. Obviously it's difficult to address the needs of every student, and every teacher already knows that. But these insights may prove helpful just the same.
- “Many of my best students were ones who rarely spoke in the large group, were active in smaller groups (and the smaller the better) and had a great deal to share with me privately in papers.”
- “Faced with four or five classes of more than 25 students, it’s difficult for teachers to be aware of each student.”
- “Our classrooms contain too many forgotten introverted students who may need help but are not getting it and/or have gifts that aren’t being either elicited or supported.”
- Books for parents and teachers to consider: Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking; Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine: How Creativity Works; Laurie Helgoe’s Introvert Power
And finally, from the Huffington Post, 6 Things You Thought Wrong About Introverts. This brief article goes through six assumptions about introverts that are very common, and in many cases, very wrong. You've probably heard or read of them all, but a refresher course never hurt anyone.