Does your class require students to be extroverts?

Susan Cain’s TED talk on the Power of Introverts has really made me think – “a third to a half of the population are introverts”. Like her, I have had to force myself to be an extrovert in professional situations and I avoid large social situations, and the staffroom, like the plague as I do not enjoy the multiple conversations bouncing around the room.

I am a firm believer that, as a teacher be you introvert or extrovert you have to be out there, teach with passion and flare, or Teach Like a Pirate as Dave Burgess says, and hook your students into learning and develop that passion for knowledge and curiosity. But, then do we always allow that space or opportunity for the introvert to operate within the class?

I have quiet working spaces and caves. Provide opportunities to work outside or use earmuffs to remove the background chatter.  I allow wait time with students, so they have time to process their response and make sure that I have a quiet chat with each student every day.  As a class we have modelled and pulled apart co-operative, paired and individual learning and I allow opportunities for student to choose how and where they work. I would like to think that the needs of the introvert is catered for in my classroom, but am not 100% sure.

Now to the next tricky question. How often is the introvert teacher shut down in the  staff room or in meetings by the extrovert teacher? Or, how often

Click to Enlarge - Borrowed from Twitter, but can'f find where.
Click to Enlarge – Borrowed from Twitter from @Psychology.

is the introverts idea squashed because it is not out there enough? Or, more commonly, how often does the introvert teacher not contribute in staff meetings because they just do not feel comfortable? I do not know the answer to those three questions or even if they are real issues, but they are things that we need to think of as educators.

We need to nurture and empower the introverts in society or schools or staff rooms and allow them the opportunities to be who they are and allow them to become the person they will be, not force them to become extroverts because we think it is the way we all should be.

13 thoughts on “Does your class require students to be extroverts?

  1. Christine Wells (@wellschristine)

    Good to put these thoughts out there for discussion. I started off being an introvert in staff meetings but feel more confident about contributing now. Maybe sometimes introversion is a lack of confidence.

    1. Your are right, I think that confidence is a major part within the staffroom situation. Both confidence in sharing and confidence in arguing your point of view or idea.

  2. So I took a break from reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet to browse my Twitter feed…and ko and behold I see your link which echoes so much of what I am processing now as a high school teacher. The book is filled with my post-its like a trail marked for my deeper reflection the next time through. I recommend the read to further push your thinking here. I anticipate some blog posts when I finish as well! Her TED talk was fantastic as well!

    1. Many thanks for the comments. I too feel that here is a lot more to this than my quick post as there is so much that I don’t understand or still need to comprehend. Thanks for the heads up on the book and off to search for it 🙂

  3. Dukeleyer,
    I agree with most of your assessment. However, to what extent should we encourage introverted students to publicly speak, or have their voices heard in other ways? And I’m not talking about digital communication. Don’t you think that most effective people are able to present themselves verbally, with confidence, in a variety of situations?
    I’m in the midst of an enlightening teaching collaboration between my school in Kentucky and students and teachers on the Navajo Nation. Culturally, Navajo people are quite reserved and are more likely to be introverted. It seems to me, however, that this disposition hampered our exchange a little bit, to often feel like communicating verbally in person is like wringing water from a dry cloth.

    1. Could not agree with you more. Being introverted should not be an excuse for being shy and being extroverted should not be an excuse for dominating the discussion.
      I think that introverts and extroverts need to learn to speak there mind clearly and confidently and as a teacher I need to provide scaffolding, modeling and experiences in speaking and communicating to an audience.
      It is like when a teacher introduces Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and a child identifies their learning style. This means how they learn best, but it is not the only way that they learn.
      Hehee, think that I have waffled too much, but to your point, verbal communication is an essential skill for all to develop and should be fostered in every child through their families and their teachers.

  4. I’m an introvert. Definitely an introvert. I’m also shy. Are the two linked? – I’m not sure. They probably are to some degree. It always takes me a while to ‘open up’ to others that I’ve met. But, I must say, once I get to know people I do open up and find things much easier.

    I find meetings difficult to manage, even when I have something to say. I’ve had to teach myself to get it out there, but it can be very difficult (it doesn’t help that I really find it difficult to interrupt people, which some people don’t seem to have a problem with). If it’s “my” meeting, then I have no problems. And, strangely enough, although probably not that unusual for a teacher, I have no problem getting up in front of people and sharing/presenting. To me, that just doesn’t fit an introvert.

    One thing I didn’t like as a child was being asked questions by my teachers in class. I would usually immediately go blank. This certainly didn’t help me speak out in class. So I guess it’s tricky to find a balance or an appropriate way of doing things. What works for one person, may not work for others.

    Perhaps we also need to consider what the so-called introvert might be doing. Are they thinking about what is happening or being discussed? Are they off in their own world, daydreaming?

    Sorry, my thoughts are a bit all over the place with this one, so those are my ramblings. I do think though, that you’ve raised a really important issue for teachers and yes, I think a teacher needs to give the introverts space to have their say.

    1. I too am unsure if shy and introverted are directly related or just cross over like a venn diagram. I embarrass easily – is that the same as shy and introverted or a third point to consider?
      as a teacher I know those in my class who do not like to speak in class or infront of a group or at assembly, but I go out of my way to make sure that they have the experience, but in a very safe and secure way. I feel that it is easier to overcome some of these hurdles when you are young and I know that I did not learn to cope with these issues until I was a teacher at 25 years old. If presenting at assembly I make sure that the student is scripted, has had time to rehearse and is well aware of what they are expected to do – no surprises. In class if a question is asked and I can see that the student is unwilling or unsure with sharing their answer I will let them know that I will be coming to them for a response/answer/idea in two or three people. This way they know that I am going to ask them to contribute, but I am also giving them some wait time to prepare.
      I think like you, I have waffled a bit, but I do know that it is a subject that I need to look further into. I have really appreciated the comments on this post as it has made me look into the subject deeper – I have downloaded Susan’s book onto my iPhone and it will be my holiday reading.
      Thank you Nathaniel for your response and making me think 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment,
      I am 11% through it (amazing what your Kindle App tells you) and so much of it rings true in my head and that of friends and colleagues. Give it a read as it is well worth it.


  5. I really enjoyed reading your post. I’m currently a pre-service teacher finishing my B.Ed in Lethbridge, Alberta. I am writing a paper for one of my courses right now about the effective use of technology tools and how they can promote learning and enhance student engagement. One of the papers I came across during my research spoke of their study on how using blogs in class gives the “silent students [or the introverts] a voice”. I think that it is extremely important that we teach our students to be be able to interact on a daily basis with their peers (or eventual colleagues), but we also need to provide them outlets that allow them to be true to themselves and demonstrate their learning in a way that best fits their personality and learning style. Blogging could be one more tool you could add to your belt to bring introverted students into the discussions in your class!
    Thanks for the post,

    1. Agree 100% Justin,
      Check out my class blog and if you follow through to the students KidBlogs you will see that some are used, some are not. I do not force them to post, but those who do are often the quiet ones.

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