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Friday, June 15, 2012

Is your classroom set up for introverted students?

School and most of the world is set up for extroverted students. We grade students on classroom participation (which generally means talking and participating verbally), on how well students give speeches etc.

These days I notice that there is a big push from the administration at my school to have lots of cooperative learning in the classroom. Obviously there is a place for all of this. We also need to think about all of our students.

What about the 25% of children who are naturally introverted? Should we encourage them to come out of their boxes? Should we encourage them to be louder or participate more? Is there a place in our classrooms that can honor their differences?

Before we go on, I will admit that I am extremely introverted by nature. I have learned to act outgoing and extroverted, but it takes much energy. I am happiest working by myself or one on one. In school I was very introverted and hated the lunchroom (its noise etc.).

As an adult, I have the flexibility to decide where I eat, who I work with and to create a life that helps me recharge and be successful. I can take a nice walk by myself at lunch time to "recharge" my batteries and be ready to be "on" and to teach in the afternoon. (Extroverts, by contrast, are like solar panels. They got more energy the more they are around other people.)

From my point of view, which is of course quite personal, I think we need to both nurture and honor introverts. We also need to help very shy children come out of their shells. Introversion is not being shy. Introverted students need to let the world see their light and hear their ideas too.

What are some of the advantages of being introverted?

  1. Introverts tend to work well by themselves for long periods of time.
  2. Introverts tend to build strong long term one on one relationships with people.
  3. Introverts are often independent.
  4. Introverts frequently have a powerful ability to concentrate, even in chaotic environments.
  5. Here is a fascinating TED talk on the power of introverts
Being shy is very different from introversion. I will write more on the differences in another post. For now, take a moment to think about how your classroom can be more welcoming to the introverts in the room.

  • Do you have a place where they can work by themselves sometimes? 
  • How do you help your introverts recharge in the middle of the day? (I can guarantee that going to recess, running with a ton of children from a bunch of different classrooms and then eating in a noisy cafeteria is not recharging for your introverted students.)
  • Do you give students quiet think or write time before asking them to share on occasion?

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