Nurturing Introverts in an Extroverted World

Nurturing Introverts in an Extroverted World

This week I came across this article "Embracing Introversion:  Ways to Stimulate Reserved Students
 in the Classroom" 
 (go ahead and take time to read it- but don't forget to come back :-) 
 It is a subject I feel strongly about, maybe moreso as I get a little older and more comfortable in my
 introverted skin.  Plus the article has reminded me to get back to reading Susan Cain's book, the one
 collecting dust on my nightstand, Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking.
  I will let you know when I finish. 

It is common for teachers to be trained and expected to encourage cooperation and the new buzzword, "collaboration" in their classrooms.  I have been known to use them myself because I know that learning to work together is a skill they will likely need on some level in the future.  However, I am uncomfortable for the introverts in a classroom where the teacher insists on frequent and almost constant talking and collaboration.  I found myself in this situation at one point in my life's adventures and I was not in a position to suggest any changes.  I found it sad, as the children who seemed to me to be hiding behind their own skin, were all but invisible to this teacher.  This statement sums up some of my own frustrations in middle school "the introvert may be pushed out as the extroverts of the group dominate the conversation even if their thinking is not on target."

One of the most interesting tidbits from this article comes from Cain's book and the idea that shyness and introversion are two different things.  Where shyness is a painful experience that tends to hold a person back, introversion has more to do with a person's style of processing information and how they "re-energize".  A shy person may be introverted or extroverted, and an introverted person may be shy or not.  This is something I have reflected on a lot in recent years.  I truly am an introvert in need of time and space for thinking, reflecting, restoring. . .  I am a bit shy too, but I can turn on the extrovert occasionally, or even regularly as a teacher.  I know that my self reflection can be seen through my growing understandings of how children learn, behave, and develop.  I have learned to be a participator in discussions, though I still give myself time to listen and think first.

Three main tips, time, space, and "asynchronous learning opportunities".  Give them time.  I can see this as giving a child a heads up about something they will be called on to talk about in discussion, providing partner or smaller group opportunities rather than all large group, and allowing other more natural forms of expression as often as possible.

Give them space.  I can recall a time in 6th grade when I just screamed at a student sitting behind me.  He was making constant noise, bumping my chair and my desk at every opportunity, just simply 'driving me crazy'.  I was a quiet, well behaved student otherwise.  Frankly I didn't say much at all, most of the time.  I think of the cramped rows of most classrooms I grew up in, with little space or opportunity to disengage from the group and know that my own classroom, will be different, because I know about needing space.  At home when I was pregnant with my third child, we expanded our house a bit.  It wasn't the obligatory extra bedroom, nursery, or a playroom for the kids, though.  It was to enclose a porch (lots of windows, air, and nature) that is just a little out of hearing range from the rest of the family fray.  It was the best decision we ever made for this introverted mom who sometimes needs a little space.

It has taken me a minute to wrap my brain around the third suggestion "Asynchronous Learning Opportunities" in this context.  Asynchronous to me brings to me a varied level of development in different areas of one person.  The article suggests online opportunities for collaboration, which provide collaboration and alone time all in one.  I know people are leary of allowing children too much tech time, letting introverts hide behind the screen, but I can relate to the idea that sitting at the computer is a cathartic, and enjoyable means of self expression, and a fairly safe way to participate in group discussions that I sometimes wish was around when I was growing up.  

So, I am off.  I will continue reading Susan Cain's book and pondering the best ways to meet the needs of diverse learners, family members, and myself.

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