I’m reading Susan Cain’s book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. (Love that title!) As teachers, we come across all kinds of kids in our classrooms, but I’m wondering how much thought we put into the activities we set up and how comfortable or uncomfortable they make kids feel.
The book is full of stories and ideas for forming better relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives, and friendships (whether one person is an introvert and the other an extrovert or both the same). It’s not an ‘educational book,’ but I could not help but read it through a teacher’s lens, especially the chapter entitled “On Cobblers and Generals: How to Cultivate Quiet Kids in a World That Can’t Hear Them.” Here, the author suggests that most schools are designed for extroverts —- teachers teach many lessons to the whole group, calling on the children who raise their hands and constantly have something to say; some group work often allows the more gregarious child to take control; being aggressive in sports in highly valued in most schools; teachers often put on report cards comments like, “I wish Molly would talk more in class”; and so on.
Here are some ideas or comments that I drew from this text:
1. Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured. If an introverted child needs help with social skills, teach her, but celebrate these kids for who they are.
2. Studies show that one third to one half of us are introverts, so you may have more introverted kids in your class than you think. Balance teaching methods to serve all kids. Extroverts tend to like movement, stimulation, and collaborative work. Introverts prefer individual choice, downtime, quiet work places, and independent projects (or working with just one or two others).
3. Don’t seat quiet kids in “high-interaction” areas of the classroom. They will feel more threatened and will have trouble concentrating.
4. Make it easy for introverted kids to participate in class, but don’t insist. Communications professor McClosky says, “Forcing highly apprehensive young people to perform orally is harmful. It will increase apprehension and reduce self-esteem.”
5. Introverts often have one or two deep interests that are not necessarily shared by their peers and sometimes they are made to feel freaky for their passions. Build a community spirit in your classroom and value everyone’s uniqueness or strengths. Strongly enforce anti-bullying programs.
6. “One of the best things you can do for an introverted child is to work with him on his reaction to novelty. Remember that introverts react not only to new people, but also to new places and events. So don’t mistake a child’s caution in new situations for an inability to relate to others. He’s recoiling from novelty or overstimulation, not from human contact. Introverts are just as likely as the next kid to seek others’ company, though often in smaller doses.” S. Cain, p. 248.
I highly recommend this book if you are a parent of an introverted child, whether you are an introvert or extrovert yourself. Any thoughts or comments?