Are you an introvert? An online quiz offers up an answer. I scrolled through the list and concluded, “Whoa! I am among the silent!” The surprise wasn’t solely understanding myself better, but the endless implications of bringing light to this topic. In wanting to know more, I read Introvert Advantage (2002) by Marti Olsen Laney, PhD and Quiet: The Power of the Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (2012) by Susan Cain. The more I learned, the more life made sense. As a classroom teacher, I wondered how schools could better meet the needs of the more reserved student.
The main problem is obvious. In her book Quiet, Cain shares her observations of an introvert child in a classroom group activity. Sadly, the child appears to get nothing out of the lesson except reinforcement of low self-esteem. Cain shares, “The truth is that many schools are designed for extroverts” and “…highly unnatural, especially from the perspective of an introvert child who loves to work intensely on projects he cares about, and hang out with one or two friends at a time” (Cain 2012: 253). Team work, cooperative learning, collaboration, and group activities are practices common in education. I’d not understood the potential negative consequences toward students in group dynamics. Generally, schools are extrovert settings. I pondered this dilemma and propose these four steps: Education, Testing, Accommodation, and Appreciation in helping to meet the needs of the quieter segment of our student population.
The first step is the education of staff, parents, and students on introverts. Some key points include: Population make up (one fourth suggested in Introvert Advantage and one third or more in Quiet), shy is something completely different (Cain 2012: 11-13), the differences between brain physiology of introverts and extroverts is considerable (elaborated on in Part Two of Quiet), and personality types cannot be changed. Of course, there is much more to be shared, but beginning with major points could initiate better understanding. A school might consider copies of well-researched books on this topic for staff libraries.
I prioritize knowing my students’ wants and needs. Formal assessments determine academic needs. I like to understand each student’s style of learning (tactile, auditory, and/or visual) and greatest interests (usually determined by a somewhat informal document of my own creation). Testing student placement on the introvert/extrovert scale could add valuable information in designing learning (the Myers Brigg Personality Type Test could assist in determining this).
Accommodation is the necessary third step. Schools need to take into account social interactions, the need for quiet time, and a setting for “recharging” of introverts after exposure to overstimulation (emphasized in Introvert Advantage). Academic professionals must hone skills to interpret the less-squeaky wheels.
The last step is by no means the least important. Appreciation of introverts and recognition of contributions to our world needs to be equal to extroverts. Quiet role models are found in writing, science, acting, art, and every facet of society. School and class level recognition of all students greatly enhances individual self-esteem.
This four step approach (Education, Testing, Accommodation, and Appreciation) toward considerations of the introvert in education may be oversimplified. I’m certain it needs input. My main point is- the needs of this large portion of our student population certainly deserve more attention. As for this quiet person, I’m silently hoping I’ve been heard.
Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of the Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. New York, New York: Crown Publishers, 2012.
Olsen Laney, Marti, PhD. Introvert Advantage. New York, New York: Workman Publishing Company, Inc. 2002.