We live in an extroverted world, where if a person wants to succeed, they have to be constantly putting themselves out there. The phrase “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” has never been more important.
However, for many introverted people living in this extroverted world, this can be an uphill battle, especially for young students in the classroom.
There are many inaccurate beliefs and notions when it comes to introversion versus extroversion, which can make it very difficult for introverted children and teenagers in school.
One of the biggest is that introverted people are just shy and they need to speak up. This is a big fallacy.
Yes, shyness can be a part of introversion, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for introversion.
Susan Cain, author of the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, explains the difference between the two.
“Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating… Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.”
More often than not an introverted person does not want to speak until they have fully formed an articulate thought.
A recent opinion piece in The Atlantic, by teacher Jessica Lahey paints such introverted students in broad strokes stating that they need to learn to speak up.
“As a teacher, it is my job to teach grammar, vocabulary, and literature, but I must also teach my students how to succeed in the world we live in — a world where most people won’t stop talking. If anything, I feel even more strongly that my introverted students must learn how to self-advocate by communicating with parents, educators, and the world at large.”
While this is true, and introverted students do need to learn speak up, they also need to be given the opportunity to speak up. Too often, an introvert is drowned out in a sea of extroverts talking.
Teachers need to take the opportunity to examine and understand exactly why a student is not speaking up. And more importantly, carefully evaluate how they determine participation grades.
For many introverted students, it may not seem like they are participating. But more often than not, these same students are actually fully engaged in the learning process and are producing brilliant work.
In a response to Lahey’s piece, Valerie Strauss explains that teachers often end up labeling students as “shy” or as “introverts” and succumb to the belief that the absence of talk leads to the absence of learning.
She explains in a Washington Post piece,
“There are potentially grave consequences for students when teachers do not understand their silence as a form of participation. Narrow interpretations of the meanings of silence can lead to false assumptions about student participation in classroom activities. For instance, students who are silent might receive low grades for classroom participation, when in fact they are actively engaged in learning. Rather than working to fix or change ‘introverts’ I suggest we understand the various reasons students choose to participate verbally in classrooms or to refrain from such participation.”
Too often extroverted people see introversion as a problem that needs to be fixed by turning an introvert into an extrovert. This just does not work. It can be like fitting a square piece into a round hole.
Rather than trying to ‘fix’ introverts, we should understand how they work and maximize the process. By doing so, an introverted person will be able to not only meet others expectations, but exceed them.
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